REASON TO WATCH
Based on life of Commack native Donna Dannenfelser
USA, Wednesday at 10 p.m.
At the outset, Dani Santino (Callie Thorne) is a mother of two teens, a devoted wife, and a Dr. Phil-like therapist who gets patients past their crises until she's got her own to deal with: a cheating husband who records his exploits on his cellphone. She dumps the cad, then -- while out clubbing one night -- hooks up with Matthew (Marc Blucas). He's a trainer for a fictitious New York football team, the Hawks, and gripes about a star wide receiver with major ball control issues. He wonders if Dani could talk to the head coach about "T.K." -- Terrence King (Mehcad Brooks). The coach then hires Dani to talk to T.K., who is initially resistant but eventually submits to her tough-love charms.
MY SAY Dannenfelser was a "mental health clinician" for the Jets back in the '90s, while her brother, actor Joe Sabatino (think uniformed cop in many series over the years) -- as Newsday's Neil Best recently pointed out -- once played pro football in Italy. So you'd think this show would get the small football details right, or at least make them compelling enough on the theory that the casual viewer would be drawn in. But, you'd think wrong. Pro football here is sketched out so broadly that it's barely recognizable as a sport at all, or (much worse) one that has been reduced to parody. Football apparently has something to do with pampered athletes who throw hissyfits, and had troubled childhoods, while their coaches say stuff like "I got a superstar wide receiver dropping balls faster than an epileptic juggler." That leaves athlete whisperer Dani Santino, who in future episodes segues to troubled brats in other professions -- entertainers, financiers, politicians . . . (T.K. seems more than a little like Terrell Owens, so maybe a future episode will cast an Anthony Weiner look-alike.) Unfortunately, she's sketched out like a stick figure, too: Brash, sassy, sexy, tough-talking, funny, lovable . . . Dani could be anyone from Carrie Bradshaw to "The Nanny."
BOTTOM LINE My heart tells me that any show that revolves around an honest-to-goodness native of Commack deserves an A+. My head tells me this one deserves a . . .