Skip to comments.USA's Magic Formula For Making Hits [Network scores in ratings without trendy sex or violence]
Posted on 07/30/2010 9:09:01 AM PDT by rhema
Four and a half million Americans tuned in earlier this month to watch the second-season premiere of USA network's series, "White Collar"a high number by any cable-channel's standards. The tale of an ex-con, forger and thief extraordinaire who partners with the FBI to solve white-collar crime, the series seems to have it allbig money, high society and dangerous villains. But the show is missing two ingredients seemingly inherent to modern television: sex and violence.
You might also notice that absence in the rest of USA's summer lineup. From "Royal Pains," about a concierge doctor treating Hampton's aristocracy on the fly, to "Psych," about a police detective masquerading as a psychic, USA's shows could easily feature carnality and carnage of one kind or another. But they don't. Even "Burn Notice" (about an ex-CIA agent) and the new "Covert Affairs" (about a budding agent) keep the gore and gunshots to a minimum.
According to the president of NBC Universal Cable Entertainment, Bonnie Hammer, that's no coincidence. She told me that when NBC purchased USA and assumed command of its programming six years ago, her team developed a "filter" for the station's content that aimed to create "smart, fun escapism." Every USA program emphasizes that essential mission.
"USA shows don't purport to be anything other than enjoyable, hopefully intelligent TV," says "Burn Notice" creator and writer Matt Nix. "There's an audience for that kind of unapologetic television."
Apparently so. USA's filter-certified products secured it a record 15th-straight victory over fellow cable stations in quarterly viewing ratings earlier this year. A wilderness of repeats and wrestling less than a decade ago, the network has used its lighthearted model to conquer the cable world.
USA's accomplishment is all the more remarkable because it comes in the midst of a cultural moment on television teeming with
(Excerpt) Read more at online.wsj.com ...
I enjoy them all. They are easy to watch and mindless. Psych is my favorite.
I like how Burn Notice worked the relative lack of violent deaths into the show’s logic. It simply generates too much police attention, which interferes with the work. IIRC, the star has only killed one person, the guy who had just sent his girlfriend to her death, and it was quite necessary to the plot.
I regularly watch “white Collar” and “Covert Affairs”, and will watch “Burn Notice” if I have time. USA also used to run “Dead Zone”, which was another good show, suitable for the entire family. I almost never watch anything on NBC, but I will watch USA...
Psych and Burn Notice for me...I really wished that USA would have taken a flier and rescued Life from NBC.
I love Burn Notice
I LOVE this show — White Collar — and I think I’m going to like Covert Affairs just as much.
The plots are complicated and I like to watch each episode a couple of times because I learn someting new each time.
I really miss Monk, but these new shows are worthy substitutes. And they bring Monk back from time to time in their re-run line up.
Mrs. rhema and I like that, too. Monk is our all-time favorite USA Network offering.
Did they kill off Fiona, or was that a previous girl friend? (I'm not up on Burn Notice.)
I don't watch any of the CSI primarily because I can't stand the shows' aesthetics. It doesn't look like Vegas, it doesn't look like NYC and it doesn't look like Miami.
Dexter, which is shot in Manhattan Beach, does a fairly good job of looking like Miami, but even still, it frequently doesn't. I loved the pilot to Justified, primarily because it was shot on location in KY, and it just looked terrific. Then, of course, it moved production back to LA and it looked horrible - the Santa Monica mountains don't look like the Cumberland or Appalachian Mountains, ever.
It's called originality, creativity, and assuming that your audience has a functioning brain. All things that the 3 major networks are lacking.
I'd better start paying attention to USA's schedule. I thought the website was the only place to catch Monk reruns.
“I love Burn Notice.”
I agree, Fiona can use me to prop up her sniper rifle anytime she wants...
“In Plain Sight” is a good show as well.
And the pilot for “Rubicon” on AMC was outstanding!
And the A&E show “Glades” is really well done.
Awesome. Fiona is IT.
Bad guy had Fiona on the way back to Ireland to face certain death and was holding Michael at gunpoint until she was out of his reach. Michael had to shoot him to rescue her.
It was Fiona, but Weston was able to ride to the rescue after double tapping Strickler when he admitted setting her up.
What BS. If they don't have the courage to make the Muzzies the bad guys, then they should do what the Bond films and The Man From UNCLE did: invent some super-villains or some international crime syndicate. Sorry, but this is a hot-button issue with me. Only the Bellisarius-created shows like JAG and NCIS have had the courage to consistently feature mid-east terrorists. NCIS is becoming a little more PC, but last season did at least end with them squaring off against a Mexican drug cartel, which is a very real enemy.
In season 2, Henry Winkler (The Fonzie) has joined the cast as the loveable con artist father of the two main male Stars. Winkler has aged appropriately, yet he hasn't lost any of his "edge". God, he's great.
ABC says, "Hey, I resemble that remark!"
In another episode it had one of Chavez’s lackeys skimming oil company profits to fund FARC and other terror groups, so I thought that made up for it.
Also Piper is pretty cute.
CSI Miami doesn’t look like Miami because it’s filmed almost entirely in Southern California. Same for CSI not looking like Las Vegas, probably the same for NY. Both shows use second-unit footage of the real locations for added reality.
Yes, I know. That was my central point. Almost all of these USA shows are actually shot in places that they are set. As such, the location becomes a central character in the story. White Collar looks like NYC because it is NYC.
They haven’t been showing Monk reruns recently, but up until a month ago, you could catch them on Thursday mornings one after another. I love watching them even though I have seen every episode at least 6 times. I suspect they’ll start showing them again in the Fall. They’ve been catching us up on Burn Notice, Psych, and Royal Pains recently.
The only one I really dislike and always turn off is House. I know other people really like that show, but I can’t warm up to it. I’m not fond of Psych either, but I can tolerate it. I can’t even tolerate House.
I watched Burn Notice for the first time yesterday on the marathon event USA televised. I noticed the lack of deaths too and remarked to the wife the producers went out of the way not to build a show around killing. While a bit cheesy and some of the scenes were kind of improbable I kind of liked the show.
I've been checking out Psych too and that show has been growing on me.
One of the worst networks is WB.
If you’re not a college-aged, trendy, spoiled, self-centered, sex crazed, stuck-up little snob, WB doesn’t want you, apparently. That seems to be the only group their shows are aimed at.
I have episode 3 on my DVR still, so I will give it a look.
Is anybody else relieved that they gave Caffrey a haircut? It needs to be shorter. Please use all your power and influence....
Every time I hear ZZ Topp's "Sharp Dressed Man" I mentally see Jeffrey Donovan in the peach colored shirt.
But with qualifications like those, our last two Democrat administrations would covet you ardently.
P.S.As long as we’re on the subject of lovely women, my main reason for watching NCIS (beside the fact that Mark Harmon is a class act) is just to see what Abby is wearing, if you haven’t seen her done up as Marilyn Monroe you have missed a real pleasure...
My main problem with the USA drama lineup is that they seem to think that Jesus and God need to insulted at least once every episode. Most programs use God irreverently as a matter of course, but now Jesus is specifically targeted as a curse word. Neither is acceptable to me, but “god” has some generality, whereas Jesus is a very specific attack.
For the most part, the shows are relatively clean for this day and age, and I look forward to seeing what’s next. White Collar’s Peter and Elizabeth are one of the best married couple portrayals I’ve seen in a long time.
As the one who posted the article, I have to plead comparative ignorance. I’ve watched most of the episodes of Psych and about a half dozen reruns of Burn Notice, but I haven’t seen the other programs yet. (My wife and I have gravitated more toward this summer’s broadcasts of the Minnesota Twins and the Tour de France.) Guess we’d better get acquainted with the other USA shows.
It was that gleam in her eyes when she asked, “Can we shoot tham?” that had me right there. Forever. That delivery was one for the ages.
Yes, Bruce Campbell is the sidekick.
We’re watching “Monk” on DVD from Netflix, having given up cable many years ago. We’re also watching “Kings,” which seems to have originated on NBC. Very interesting, good cast.
Mr. Monk is our 9-year-old, unfortunately. I couldn’t get him out of the library today until he had the checkers game *perfectly* arrange to a pattern clear only to him.
The exception is Covert Affairs, which shoots in Toronto because—who’d have guessed?—boom town Washington DC is prohibitively expensive.
I think that Tony Shaloub is a brilliant actor. His nuances are subtle, but oh, so perfect. And the writing on that show is excellent.
Episode 2 of the 2nd season of White Collar will be showing Sunday morning at 8 AM Central time. Adjust for your time zone accordingly. Covert Affairs re-uns sometime this weekend too. Check your guide.
As much as I like White Collar, I have managed to fall asleep in the middle 3 times. THat episode aired at 8 pm Tues night and again at 11. THen it ran again 10 PM Tursday night. Do you think that I could stay awake for any of them. And it’s an exciting and complicated plot.
"Fiona is not my past!"
I love that show.
I haven't seen that yet. I noticed that there are a lot of shows that shoot either in Toronto (which is usually shot for NYC or DC as was the case in that Kiefer Sutherland movie a few years ago), or they're shot in Vancouver. Almost all of SyFy's stuff in shot in Vancouver, which in my opinion - always looks like Vancouver, no matter what story says it is.
I think the other real difficulty, in addition to expense, with shooting in DC, is the permitting limitations, especially after 9/11. It's difficult to shoot certain places, if it's possible at all, inside the District. It's too bad, the city actually could lend a lot of character to any program.
They did that so that serial cheater David Duchovny could be closer to his wife.
I have never seen that show. I might have to start watching if that's a frequent part of the storyline.
Annie Walker, CIA spy! (Piper Perabo)
Great escapist plots, with great legs!!!
Hail to the king, baby!
Psych is the least likely to use “Jesus”, so it’s no wonder if you haven’t noticed it. It’s the quirkiest of USA’s lineup; the cast is simply fun to watch.
TNT’s Leverage and The Closer are favorites of mine, along with USA’s lineup (minus RAW).
I’d been meaning to watch Leverage someday. My wife and I enjoyed Timothy Hutton (not to mention Maury Chaykin and the whole cast) in A & E’s excellent Nero Wolfe series.
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