A Comprehensive And Helpful Guide To USA Network’s Original Programming

PRELIMINARY NOTE: I don’t have to prove anything to you people.

I have seen almost every episode of every USA original program. I’m not even sure how it happened. One minute I was a busy young man with a healthy, active social life, and the next I was developing very strong opinions about the show Burn Notice three hours into an all-day marathon full of episodes I had already seen twice. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t really watch any by-the-numbers network procedurals, but for some reason, when the same types of shows pop up on basic cable, I can’t get enough. (Ex. – I don’t think I’ve seen Castle in its normal ABC timeslot more than 10 times, but now that it’s on TNT every day you might as well put the show straight into my veins.) Hell, I even watched the shows that weren’t all that good and justifiably got canceled. R.I.P. Fairly Legal.

Now, have I missed an episode of Covert Affairs here and there? Of course. But that’s the beauty of these shows. You can miss one, two, three episodes (maybe a whole season), and pick it back up during a rerun on a lazy Saturday morning. And since summer is coming and the final season of Burn Notice premieres tonight, I figured it might be a good idea to give you a comprehensive guide to all these shows. Next thing you know, you’ll be consuming episodes of White Collar 12 at a time just like me!

Title: Burn Notice

Plot: Michael Weston is a hotshot spy who got “burned” by some intelligence higher-ups, and is left to fend for himself in Miami. With the help of his girlfried-ish-type person Fiona and his former Navy SEAL pal Sam, he runs around South Florida helping people and blowing stuff up, and tries to figure out how to get his old life back.

Helpful Analysis: Here are my three favorite parts of Burn Notice: 1) Bruce Campbell as Sam, because Bruce Campbell is awesome, and as far as I can tell the entire point of that character is to drink a lot, crack wise, and live like a prince thanks to a never-ending stream of sugar mamas; 2) The fact that there’s at least one huge explosion every single episode; and 3) The voiceovers that give you, like, way too much information about how to do spy stuff (build bombs, pick locks, bug cell phones, etc.).

Also, Jere Burns (Wynn Duffy from Justified) played a bad guy for a while, and I will watch literally anything that guy appears in.

Title: Psych

Plot: Shawn Spencer is a hotshot consultant to the Santa Barbara police department who has super-duper powers of perception. With the help of his best friend Gus, he uses these skills to start a fake psychic business and solve a lot of murders.

Helpful Analysis: Psych is a goofy, fun show that doesn’t take itself very seriously. I appreciate that. I also appreciate Dulé Hill, who plays Gus, because if you focus on his face while all the other characters are doing things, you’ll see that he has hilarious little reactions to almost everything. Little tip from me to you.

Title: Suits

Plot: Mike Ross is a young hotshot with a photographic memory and a Rain Man-like gift for numbers who gets hired to work at a white shoe law firm despite not having a law degree. With the help of a hotshot partner named Harvey Specter, he runs around New York handling huge, high-profile cases, and tries to keep his secret from the other lawyers in the firm.

Helpful Analysis: Yo, Suits is a good show and I will flip out if you disagree. It’s a little melodramatic sometimes, and every character except Harvey’s secretary Donna has been a total dick at one point or another, but as Dustin pointed out a while back, it’s sneaky addictive and much better than you’d expect a USA drama to be. Plus, Lady Stark from Game of Thrones is on it this season. That’s gonna be weird. Good weird.

Fun Fact: If you get a few drinks in me and ask me a question about Suits, I will talk for 30 uninterrupted minutes.

Title: Royal Pains

Plot: Hank Lawson is a hotshot doctor who gets fired after he chooses to save a poor patient instead of one of his hospital’s major donors. With the help of his CPA brother Evan, he moves to the Hamptons to start HankMed, a concierge medical service that caters to the rich and famous.

Helpful Analysis: I was going to tell you guys all about how this show is basically MacGuyver, M.D., but then I remembered there are videos where the show’s star raps about the plot like he’s Will Smith or something, so I’ll just leave the most recent one here and move on.

Title: White Collar

Plot: Neal Caffrey is a hotshot con-man/hat-wearer who gets captured by the FBI after an infamous, decade-long career, and starts working with the government as a condition of his release. With the help of the agent who caught him, Peter Burke, he solve difficult cases while secretly trying to tie up loose ends from his criminal life in his downtime.

Helpful Analysis: This show kinds of bugs me because Neal is a big fancy expert on everything. Heists, forgeries, money laundering, foreign cultures, art, wine, food, fashion, history, seduction, etc. It gets to be a little much. Just once I want there to be an episode of this show where Peter’s all “NEAL! We have to head to the French embassy! Someone poisoned the Ambassador!” and have him be like, “Poison? Yeah … not in my wheelhouse,” then spend the rest of the day watching The People’s Court in sweatpants. But then I remember Tiffani Thiessen plays Peter’s wife and I give the show a pass.

Title: Covert Affairs

Plot: Annie Walker is a hotshot CIA trainee who goes to work for the Domestic Protection Division as a field agent. With the help of a blind tech operative named Auggie, she tries to keep the country safe and keep her dangerous double life a secret from the ones she loves using her cover as a employee of the Smithsonian.

Helpful Analysis: The key to enjoying Covert Affairs is pretending Piper Perabo is still playing her character from Coyote Ugly and Peter Gallagher, who plays one of her bosses, is still Sandy Cohen from The O.C., but they both became spies. I am not exaggerating when I say that this makes the show 10-20 times better.

Title: Necessary Roughness

Plot: Hotshot therapist Dr. Dani Santino is a recently divorced single mother who goes to work for a fictional professional football called the New York Hawks. With the help of Matt Donnally, a team employee and her secret on-again off-again love interest, she tries to help the players deal with their problems at work while dealing with her own problems at home.

Helpful Analysis: John Stamos is going to be on the show this season. If that doesn’t do it for you, I really don’t know what else to tell you. Except for the fact that there’s a wide receiver on the team who is so obviously inspired by Terrell Owens that he should be getting royalties. God knows he could use them.

Title: Graceland

Plot: Mike Warren is a hotshot rookie FBI agent who is assigned to work with a multi-agency team of hotshots who all share a SoCal beach house as part of an undercover operation. With the help of these other agents, he tries to take down criminals in the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles.

Helpful Analysis: This is the newest USA show. According to the reviews, it’s “grittier” and less “breezy” than the other shows on the network, which is INFURIATING because a multi-agency team of hotshots sharing a beach house and going undercover had a chance to be the most USA original programming show possible. Everyone could have worn sunglasses and brightly colored dress shirts with the top two buttons unbuttoned, and shot little promos where they walk in slow-motion down an all white hallway or away from hovering helicopter, and told jokes about how one guy was really messy and it drives the rest of them nuts, and it could have been exactly the kind of good/bad/good show I would watch until my eyes bleed. This will not do, USA. This will not do at all.

NOTE: I will watch every episode of this show.