"There are many different types of fighters in the world. Some of them sit in little flowered chairs."
—Dani, "Forget Me Not", 1x09
The series centers on Dr. Danielle "Dani" Santino, a tough Long Island divorcee who, in order to make ends meet, gets a job as a therapist for a professional football team. Her career begins to take off when athletes, musicians, politicians and other celebrities start to request her tough love therapy. She must learn to balance her new career with being a single mother.Not to be confused with the movie Necessary Roughness, which, while also football-based, is completely different.
This show provides examples of:
Absentee Actor: Seven episodes into season 2 and Vivica has yet to show up.
Seven episodes into season 2 and Lindsay's only been in two, Ray J in three.
Into season 3, Ray J is in Europe (eg no episodes), and Lindsay shows up briefly in 2x03 to be a foil to the client of the week.
Aesop Amnesia: TK seems to forget every week that he previously learned not to be so self-obsessed.
Fridge Brilliance: It's him slipping back into old habits and a reinforcement of the fact that therapy isn't a one-and-done sort of deal - it takes effort and work on the part of the patient to make a long term difference.
Always Someone Better: TK frequently has to deal with his feelings of inadequacy when compared to newer, younger players: rookie WR Shane Givens, rival CB Maurice Manningfield, and Hawks draft prospect Damon Razor. Season tosses in "Toes" Kittridge.
Bait-and-Switch Tyrant: The assumption in "Mr. Irrelevant" is that Hank Griffin is going to run the Hawks into the ground after the Pittmans' divorce and relinquishing of the team. He turns out to be a good challenge for Coach, a needed ally for Matt to claim more responsibility, and just the kind of guy you want running your draft.
Coach that is, Wazkinski is a straighter example in season 3. Not only does he replace Coach but he also takes over G Ming from Matt who is now back to being an assistant GM ... only with even less power than before.
Broken Pedestal: Subtle one but Nico's attitude towards Gabrielle turns less amorous when he finds out she used the fact that he didn't know who Juliette's father was to manipulate him. Particularly noticeable in season 2.
Butt Monkey: As a rookie, Damon Razor is a prime target for TK and the rest of the locker room. TK parking Damon's brand-new car in Newark might have been the breaking point. Coach, serious guy he is, wants nothing of it. Well... except for conspiring with Nico to haze both TK and Razor in order to teach them a lesson.
California Doubling: While set in Long Island, the show is filmed in Atlanta, with the Georgia Dome serving as the home field of the New York Hawks.
Cannot Spit It Out: TK can't figure out how to talk to his girlfriend Vivica. She wants to take it slow, and he has real feelings for her, but he's too used to one-night-stands. Naturally, he insults her big-time.
Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Matt is the calm, level-headed trainer, always ready to lend a supportive ear and encourage his team. Nico is just as calm, but resorts to blackmail, bribery, and outright kidnapping to "fix" problems, and doesn't really do heart-to-hearts.
The Cast Showoff: Scenes of Matt playing basketball are due to Marc Blucas's college and semi-pro basketball career.
Chain of Deals: Connor engages in this in order to stop TK from being traded to Buffalo. He uses up a lot of favors to accomplish this but he considers it great advertising. People in the business will see how dedicated he is to his clients and that he can accomplish what might be impossible to lesser agents.
Character Development: A big part of season 1 is TK's development from trouble maker to team leader, from bad influence on Dani's life to good influence on her life.
Season two has TK start working on that development as it relates to other people.
Later episodes of season two has this start to happen to other members of the Hawks - one whom comes out of the closet. As a whole, the show seems to be doing this for the Hawks themselves as we see them turn from non-contender full of troubled misfits and poor team chemistry (TK is suggested to have been the only real standout offensive weapon prior to the series and getting by on pure athleticism) into a Superbowl contender of tightly knitted players.
Season three has TK slipping back into pre-series attitudes though in this case, it's because of the people around him. He's actually perfectly willing and wanting to work with the new Coach as long as he can talk to Dani... too bad said Coach (who is also the GM) fired her. Matt, rather unsympathetically, tells TJ to suck it up and talk to a new therapist. Likewise, his negative reaction to Sheera's glamor-/attention-seeking antics is a far cry from pre-series TK who probably would have sucked it up happily.
Chekhov's Skill: Each client story tends to also flavor the personal story. For instance, a poker player who has trouble bluffing stars in an episode where lying is a big issue in Dani's life. Usually crosses over into a Eureka Moment as well.
The Chew Toy: Phil Kirkman from "A Wing and a Player", the source of the "Hawks Curse". The poor guy can barely walk down the street without getting death threats.
Cliff Hanger: At the end of "Goal Line", TK is at a nightclub celebrating the Hawks playoff win when a fan pulls a gun. It fades to black, then the next scene is Nico knocking on Dani's door and telling her and Matt that TK's been shot. Credits.
At the end of "Double Fault", TK is driving his SUV while hopped up on pain pills, possibly about to OD, when a little girl and her bike stop in the middle of the street in front of him. All we see before it goes to black is TK's shocked face and the screeching of tires.
Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: Ray J's girlfriend Olivia has gotten both Santino kids to go vegan. Poor Dani can't help but crack under the pressure, craving meat everywhere she goes, and sneaking out to eat it. Finally, both her kids agree to compromise in the face of steaks for dinner.
Cool Old Lady: Angela, Dani's wisecracking, gambling addict mother, who is played by Conchetta Tomei.
Corpsing: The client of the week in "Anchor Management" turns to Dani after doing this on live television while discussing a war.
Couch Gag: The client of the week is represented in the opening credits with some sort of item related to the Patient of the Week rolling up to a shot of Doctor Dani's feet.
Deadpan Snarker: Dani, constantly. Also Nico, though his sense of humor is drier.
Demoted to Extra: Most of the Hawks personnal aside from Evans and King have been this in season 3 due to new management, Dani and Nico moving on to other bosses, and Matt getting married off-screen.
Department of Child Disservices: "Spinning Out", where a social worker comes to evaluate Dani's fitness to have full custody of her children, and whether her patients (especially TK) are having an adverse effect on the kids. Subverted in that the social worker isn't villified, TK proves in later episodes to be a harmful influence on Ray J and Lindsey, and Dani has to leave her kids in the middle of the night to bail TK out and it's only through Nico's influence that the social worker never finds out.
Divorce Assets Conflict: Ray and Dani's is ongoing over the first season, but comes to a head in "Spinning Out" and "Dream On".
Marshall and Gabrielle Pittman's starts in "Goal Line" and continues until "Slumpbuster", dragging the Hawks, Nico, and Dani along with it.
Double Standard: The husband cheats on his wife, he is set up as a monster. If the wife cheated on the husband, she needs to be forgiven.
"All the King's Horses". Wow, where does one start... Matt's moved on. TK's friend dies due to a bad heart when they escape from rehab. Pittman is dead and so Nico has lost the only person to ever understand him. Ray J gets arrested for possession of marijuana. Mr. Fishie the Fish dies. A few moments do prevent it from being entirely downer but yeah...
"Snap Out of It". Dani figures out/discovers the now-exactly client of the week's condition disassociative disorder, popularly known as multiple personality disorder but... they refuse therapy. As a result, the last scene we have of the client, Nolan Powers, is his disassociative personality, Scotty (an 8 and a half year old boy), manifesting in order to write a message to Dani saying: "At least we tried."
Down to the Last Play: The playoff game in "Goal Line", with a subversion - TK doesn't score the winning goal, but he does tackle Minefield and allow another player to score. Also counts as Character Development since, at the start of the series, TK is a egotistical player who doesn't want to share the limelight with anyone and who is more interested in himself than his time. So letting someone else score in such a big moment is a huge sign of where he's come. Emphasized by the fact that despite not scoring at all in the game or putting up big numbers, TK is truly happy and celebrates the win rather than becoming destructive over the lack of limelight. And unexpectedly to him perhaps, the media recognizes his contribution to the play and heaps some praise on him for that.
To boot... in an earlier episode when giving a post-game interview, TK actually said "I don't do blocks." making this an even better example of his Character Development.
Though only a regular season game, "Frozen Fish Sticks" has this again. In this case, TK isn't playing. Rather he does a really awesome thing by helping Kittridge beat the opposing cornerback, allowing him to get the winning touchdown. However, Kittridge not only doesn't acknowledge TK's help, he actually pretends (on camera) that it was his insight that allowed him to get open. TK is understandably upset, though more at Kittridge and less in general.
Happens again in "There's the Door" though in this case, the game itself isn't important (playoff contention not withstanding). Rather, it's important because it's to demonstrate the newfound chemistry between Evans and King, the former who just came out of the closet to his team with TK supporting him, as well as TK proving that he isn't relying on his speed to be good anymore but his team and his smarts.
The Dreaded: Phil Kirkman is never named within the Hawks facility, always referred to by Coach, Nico, and Matt as "You Know Who".
Drop-In Character: Dani's friend Margot (who has been seen twice), as well as her mother, Angela.
Dumb Blonde: Jeanette plays the role, but every so often (like in "Dream On") she shows that she's also very perceptive and understanding.
The Dutiful Son: Ray J has shades of this, being the "good boy" to Lindsey's "bad girl". He still makes his mistakes.
The roles dramatically change in the later half of the second season. Ray J gets sucked into Juliette Pittman's web and subsequently, drops out of high school to fly to Paris with her as her personal assistant.
Erotic Dream: Dani has her fair share of them. One of them mimics that famous scene from Titanic.
The Foil: In some ways, Juliette to TK. TK is actively trying to change who he is - from bad boy to leader, from drug addict to clean living. Juliette prefers Old!TK because it's more marketable and fun.
Follow the Leader: Like many other USA shows after the success of Burn Notice, this is the story of a fish out of water with personal issues that subverts tropes, has quirky and guile characters, doesn't take itself too seriously while poking fun at other shows in good nature.
Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Lindsey and Ray J, respectively, in the beginning. It's later subverted when Ray J goes to a club and gets his car stolen, then later sells illegal TK merchandise and gets caught and Lindsey proves she's a talented writer and takes the rap for her brother with the merchandise thing.
Dani giving back Nico's dollar (legally, he has to pay something for therapy even though he can't really tell her much) because he doesn't need a therapist, he needs a friend. Occurs again in season 2 for similar reasons - he's trying to be a friend to Marshall by getting Marshall help, but he can't/doesn't want anyone, probably Marshall, to know.
TK spends most of season two secretly addicted to pain pills, except the facade's beginning to crack.
Juliette Pittman is a straighter example though she's enjoys toeing the line considering we see her regularly downing a bottle of wine at her desk like bottled water.
Funny Foreigner: Augusto is set up to be this, but he and Jeanette seem to have circumvented the language barrier, and he's pretty smart.
The Ghost: The Hawks' oft-referred to, never-seen owner, Marshall Pittman. At least, in season one; he becomes a character in season two.
Glamorous Single Mother: Subverted to an extent. Dani does seem to have a pretty nice life, post-divorce, but it's taking a toll on her relationship with her kids.
Good Colors, Evil Colors: Nico isn't quite "evil", but he's always in black, contrasted with Matt's frequent light color palette. When his loyalties to the Hawks - particularlly Danni - are stretched by the lingering involvement of Pittman, his normal black jacket becomes a dark purple. Normally not notable or noticeable but considering his usual colors, it stands out. In season 3, he's back to wearing black for the same reasons we first saw him doing so - he's got his own agenda going on.
Hot-Blooded: TK, to an extent. Then again, between his anger issues, his parental issues, his confidence issues, and his somewhat crude social skills, it's somewhat expected. Ironically, thanks to his Character Development, he's not this in the second half of season two... but people sure love to push his buttons to the point where even the calmest person would get pissed.
Ladykiller in Love: Terrence reaches it with Vivica, when he wants to go grocery shopping with her. As it turns out, going grocery shopping is a euphemism... for simply spending time doing mundane things with Vivica.
Inverted in the third season where TK, despite his occasional alpha male-ish comments, is actually more interested in a meaningful relationship than meaningless sex as a show of his character development.
Myth Arc: Whereas seasons 1 and 2 had fairly light arcs revolving around Hawks' owners, Season 3 introduces a more serious and darker one that seems to involve the FBI, V3, and former V3 client, Joesph Crabchek.
New Old Flame: Laura, who used to date Matt and got back together with him. He broke up with her again when he realized that she hasn't really changed and got him a job in California because she wanted to move back.
Never Suicide: Subverted. Given what we saw earlier in the episode Carl's suicide seems mighty convenient and its clear that Dani and Nico have their suspicions. Then Dani receives the suicide note in the mail and we find out that it really was suicide.
Not to mention TK, who is a younger, thinly-veiled Terrell Owens. Owens himself actually guest-stars as TK's archenemy Maurice Manningfield.
Damon Razor is basically high school basketball phenom Jerry Joseph playing a different sport — down to stealing a dead kid's identity and re-enrolling in high school at the age of 18 to start fresh.
Once an Episode: Someone shows up at Dani's doorstep in the middle of the night. Always.
It's been Nico so much that Dani's getting Genre Savvy about it, but it's happening less often in season two.
Dani having a Eureka Moment about her patient of the week while doing something mundane.
One-Shot Character: Played straight with Dani's Clients of the Week. However, unlike other procedural-based shows, the client story is only about half of the show, with the other half related to the Hawks or Dani's personal life.
Opposite-Sex Clone: Nico encounters one of himself in the form of Vera Dade. Being that she's as savvy as he is, both of them can't pull any of their normal tricks on each other with any sort of success or at least, without the other realizing what's going on. Though considering they end up sleeping with each other, snoop for information while doing so and still remain cordial with each other, they don't seem to hold any particular antagonism towards each other.
Dani for TK. Crosses over into Familial Substitute in "All the King's Horses". Dani is truly hurt by TK's initial refusal to enter rehab and subsequently showing up at her house begging her for help. Ray J's storyline seems to be at first him using Matt & TK for insider info on fantasy football and at first seems upset about TK's rehab because it'll make him lose his fantasy football league... but he doesn't even hesitate to defend TK when his 'friend' starts insulting TK and reveals he was only panicked because he didn't know what had happened to TK.
Nico for Juliette Pittman, due to his feelings for her mother. The question is - just how accurate is the "substitute" bit of that label?
The question is answered in the season finale: Juliette isn't his, but Gabrielle let Nico believe she could be.
Pet the Dog: When a reporter starts hounding Razor, TK steps up and offers an unfettered interview with himself about his shooting... but only if said reporter backs off Razor. Crosses over into both Character Development for TK (showing off his growing leadership and compassion) as well that for all his bluster, he really does think of his team as family (in this case, Razor being like a younger brother).
Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Not in the traditional sense but Pittman is clearly shorter than most of the cast yet wields the most power.
Damon Razor, who can't weigh more than a buck forty, but is a strong match for TK on the field.
In "Might As Well Face It", Starhawk is an actual game for the PS3. That said, it's unlikely that any tournament for any game would fill a stadium like they showed - even the biggest e-sport game has trouble selling out a large auditorium (online viewers however are another story).
Properly Paranoid: When Phil Kirkman tells Dani that he is afraid to leave his house because of death threats, she thinks he might be simply paranoid. When she accompanies him, he is recognized and verbally assaulted as soon as he takes off his sunglasses.
Put on a Bus: Ray J runs off with Juliette at the end of season 2 and is still gone by season 3.
Refuge in Audacity: In-universe example when TK's shooter claims that he shot TK in self-defense due to TK (who was unarmed and didn't even so much as touch the guy) being known as a hot-head and aggressive.
Retail Therapy: How Dani solves the issue of Leanne's kleptomania (and gets to the root of her issues with the other wives) in "Whose Team Are You On?".
Rich Bitch: Gabrielle Pittman and Anne Marie Harmon.
Ripped from the Headlines: The plot of "The Fall Guy" - that of a coach having a bounty systems against other players - is this.
The Wonderlic test is an actual IQ test used in the NFL to assess intelligence. And yes, getting a 9 is pretty bad.
A season 3 episode has Dani note the difference between a psychologist (what she is) and a psychiatrist when someone asks if she can proscribe medicine for them.
Shrouded in Myth: Nico in general. All he'll tell Dani is that he's from Pittsburgh, he was once married, and he used to be a Navy SEAL and a waiter. In addition, we know that Marshall Pittman once saved his life in some fashion which is the root cause of his intense loyalty to the man. We have no idea what his real job is or how he "fixes" problems. He works directly for the Hawks' owner Mr. Pittman and seems to have jurisdiction over any issue he feels might negatively affect his bosses' interests.
The fact that he reveals that much to Dani is a sign that he actually likes her. He also teases her (in his usual dry way) that he knows when she doesn't like something because she squints a lot.
One brief scene in season 2 suggests that Marshall was in the military with Nico.
Status Quo Is God: An interesting combination of this and Character Development in season two for TK. By the end of season 1 he seems to have made significant progress in addressing his various problems. However, due to the results of the season 1 finale, TK has developed PTSD which has taken over as the major malfunction in his life. His reactions to it are less old TK (party to forget) and more new TK (be proactive and try to help yourself).
The Season 3 premiere averts this. Matt's off to Boston to be head GM. Coach is gone, replaced by a new one. Dani's fired from the Hawks by said coach and takes up a new job at V3, also closing her private practice in the process. Nico's at V3 as well though he has a mysterious agenda with an equally mysterious someone he's answering to... that isn't V3. And TK's struggling to, as Dani puts it, fly solo since other than Rex Evans, he's lost pretty much every major figure in his life.
Stealth Hi/Bye: Nico does the "Hi" part to Dani constantly, seeming to materialize right behind her, even in the back seat of her car. However, he does not usually vanish at the end of the conversation.
Team Mom: Dani by proxy of being the team therapist. Coach seems to look to her to lead the way in anything not related to actual gameplay. A notable instance of this occurs in the season 2 premiere where Coach justifies his decision by stating "Dani's record speaks for itself." Later episodes in the season reveal that her original duties have expanded to be more involved in actual team activities such as taking part in the Hawks combine as well as reinforcing the Coach/Dani dynamic as the parents of the players.
The Bus Comes Back: Episode 3x6. TK gets traded to New Jersey... where Coach Purnell is head coach.
There Are No Therapists: Averted, of course, and the show makes an attempt to show their work. For instance, in the first episode, TK has confidence issues. Doctor Dani uses a variety of therapeutic methods including hypnotherapy but makes a point (as does the show) that this is not a quick fix; TK has to keep going to therapy to truly overcome his problems. In fact, he gets screwed over when he briefly latches onto a Yes-Man self-help guru who merely enables his behaviour by telling him what he wants to hear.
This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: Anne Harmon calls Dani one but it backfires, proving anger-management is, as Dani says, "the least of [her] issues".
TK to Minefield before starting a food fight - "hope you like pumpernickel, bitch".
Treacherous Advisor: Everyone (except for TK) knew it was only a matter of time before Laz developed into this.
Tsundere: Dani is a Type B; the "tsun-tsun" side is triggered by her ex-husband, though not, curiously, by any of her Love Interests. Then again, her ex-husband cheated on Dani with a veritable train of women so the anger might be justified just a little. Also, she is no longer in love with her ex since she found out he was cheating on her.
Sheera might be a slightly straighter example.
Two Lines, No Waiting: Episode 3x8 sees T Ks, Nico's, and Dani's plot lines begin to merge as details begin to emerge about V3.
Unusual Euphemism: According to Matt, if you want to "go grocery shopping" with a woman, you're in love with her. TK blurts it out to Vivica.
Weak, but Skilled: Draft prospect Damon Razor is relatively weak and skinny compared to other wide receivers, but he's got great instincts and speed.
What the Hell, Hero?: Dani potentially ruins a promising football star's life by uncovering why he seems to intentionally tanking his preliminaries. Turns out he's been living under an assumed identity. He would have gotten away with it if she didn't ask Nico to find out about him. Though the ending of the episode suggests that the Hawks will draft Razor regardless and assist in making the identity thing blow over/take the short term PR hit.
Will Not Tell a Lie: Nico tells Dani that he does not lie. While we never see him tell a lie, most of the things about him are a mystery and he tends to use euphemisms when talking about what he does as the team's "fixer".
The subject of "Goal Line" regarding whether he will lie about his affair with Gabrielle Pittman. He eventually tells the truth, informing Pittman's lawyer that if Pittman wants to know who Gabrielle's been sleeping with, he can call Nico.
That said, in season three, we see an instance where he'll also spin certain events as needed to tell or suggest the story he wants. He still won't lie, but it won't be the truth either. He mentions to Dani that he "worked at the FBI briefly"... when in fact, at the time, he's working for the FBI right then as an informant.
Your Cheating Heart: Dani's husband has been having affairs right under her nose. He even used the guest bedroom in their house for this. When Dani realizes this, she files for divorce.
Gabrielle Pittman seems fine with cheating on her husband. Of course, Marshall Pittman seems fine with cheating on his wife, so the knife goes both ways.
She seems fine ignoring her own affair with Matt in the pilot episode; she was even ready to get it on in the coach's office before she realized it was a job offer and that other people were there.
And as it turns out, Dani's mother and father both had affairs. It's implied that her father's were out of lust while her mother's was out of love.
What Happened to the Pet?: Averted with Little Dude. His fish bowl is clearly seen on the kitchen counter and Dani feeds him a few times. Makes an additional appearance where he dies and subsequently shows up frozen in a block of ice.
Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: YMMV on how woobie Pittman is, but nevertheless his impending divorce means he's willing to tank the Hawks just so that his wife can't take it from him.
Juliette Pittman seems to be following in her father's footsteps. While she seems to be less abrasive or abusive than a Rich Bitch, her inability to deal with her personal issues has her sowing chaos and leaving wreckage in her wake.