Watching Blind: Rush and Satisfaction on USA

Satisfaction (Photo: NBCUniversal)

Rush is sorta Royal Pains meets Rake. Satisfaction is Kinsey light. Boy I’m glad I’m not watching either show.

An item appeared next to my name on the Big Board at WEIO headquarters the other week. Just above “Another M.O. defending some meandering procedural (because you’ve read all the detective novels on your shelf twice already).” and a few spots below “Figure out that coding issue that causes people who follow us on Twitter to get free money.”1 was the intriguing writing assignment “USA – Mooch – 12p”.

Always up for a good mystery (see above) I began a careful consideration of what these three letters meant. Perhaps it was a reference to the atomic age drama Manhattan.2 Or maybe this was an opportunity to discourse on the state of American television more broadly. How are we, as a nation, reflected in our small-screen entertainment? Is there, in fact, a difference between the television of the USA and these United States of America?3 Perhaps – ah, perhaps this was a chance to use my degree in Politics and write the sure to be seminal work The Tea Party’s M.O.4 Whatever it was I was supposed to do, I dedicated myself to the task.

Two-thousand words into a piece that will apparently never run our fearless leader emailed. “Hey Mooch” his secretary wrote, striking that certain balance between professionalism and camaraderie necessary to keeping any media empire floating on all cylinders. “There are two USA shows debuting – Rush and Satisfaction. Can you put together something about how to distinguish the shows within the USA brand? It could probably be written without having to watch either show.”

Pass judgment on a work of popular culture without in any way experiencing said work?! This… this I could do. As chance would have it, online ads for both shows had just floated through my field of vision. Between them and some press releases, it was the perfect opportunity to judge shows purely on their presentation, not their content – the way USA Network shows were meant to be judged.5

IMDB was wrapped with an ad for Satisfaction that distracted me for a minute as I thought the smirking fellow was also the lead on Reckless and that seemed logistically difficult. Then I realized he was actually the lead from The Glades, and cursed my brain yet again for retaining that sort of information and letting that cold fusion equation slip away in the night. Meanwhile, a 350×250 ad for Rush intruded onto some article and I took in the quote, registered the image, did not immediately note the show title, and concluded it was an ad for Night Shift. A desperate, desperate ad designed (but failing) to make me think something Dangerous was happening with the characters on that other medical drama.

The press materials for USA’s Rush – the network’s second doctor to the wealthy piece – add nothing to this muddle. They give the impression of all pitch and no product, without much to the pitch. First, the premise is Royal Pains but set in L.A., with (at the start at least) a douchier main character and without (immediately at least) the helping poor people because he’s less of a douche thing. No, really – try and find another difference between the surprisingly long-running Pains and the almost certain to be short-run Rush. Then there’s the promotional picture, in which three models express several races and genders but no professions or other character traits. Finally, let me just quote from the press release: “…like the scratched CDs he still listens to in his car — Rush is a little worse for wear and may be a little stuck. Still, the bad-boy doctor has a fundamentally good heart. Maybe that’s part of his problem.” I swear I did not write any of that in mildly satirical response to any other part of it.

Satisfaction, meanwhile has the shortest press release I’ve ever seen for a new show. It establishes the main conceit (“a modern marriage at its midpoint”), barely sketches the characters (problematically the press release tells us the husband’s profession – ‘investment advisor’ – and makes no mention of the wife’s) – and tries to coyly get us to watch by teasing “their shocking and unconventional choices.” in two sentences.

But then the press site does something halfway interesting – it partially backs up its announcement of its “innovative” marketing campaign6 that touches on various topics and questions about relationships today with results from a survey that asked Manhattanites about their attitudes towards sex, dating, marriage, and more. They actually went a little out of their way to learn a bit about modern relationships when putting together a show about modern relationships.

Look, Kinsey this is not – in either quality of performance or in academic rigor. Yet the way USA is presenting Satisfaction, as a question to which the answer is not immediately apparent, makes it stand out amidst the rest of their summer lineup of character pieces that tread water endlessly while they laboriously set up new plotlines. The unadorned nature of the show description, the possible efforts to keep the characters more of the moment… could it be that this is a series that will only run a summer or two, until the central conflict is, in some way, resolved?

Now the problem, clearly, is that this isn’t Kinsey and this isn’t even Sondheim’s Company. The characters we’re getting are one white, upper-class, heterosexual, cisgendered, Manhattan-dwelling couple. Their take on this situation will be limited, and probably no where near as shocking as USA’s press release authors think it will be. But on a network that uses its welcome characters in fairly rote ways, Satisfaction – or at least a two-season max series called Satisfaction – could be a nicer newer look for the brand.

  1. This was later de-prioritized. Our stocks have been doing great and Tuesday morning the accounting department texted ‘Dont worrry about the tWitter thing come join fr margritass xoxo’  
  2. USA! USA!  
  3. Spoiler: Yes.  
  4. Spoiler: it’s a string of failed kidnappings, a la Fargo  
  5. Says the guy still watching Graceland and Covert Affairs and who masochistically finished Burn Notice.  
  6. For the first time ever saucy questions will be posed on billboards and hashtags will be used!  

A Brief Word From Our Sponsors:

About Aaron Mucciolo 206 Articles
He does things. That's all we can say at this time. E-mail: mooch@whatelseison.tv