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Can John Stamos save USA's 'Necessary Roughness'?

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John Stamos.

The name brings happy shivers to a generation of "Full House" lovers.

Now approaching 50, he still has his sexy on.

But don't expect soap opera-style romance for Stamos in his latest role as a hard-driving celebrity agent in USA's "Necessary Roughness," shot in Atlanta and starting its third season tonight at 10 p.m.

"I'm often love cheese on a show," he said on set last week. "Not this time!"

Instead, the focus is on the work.

The series, which stars Callie Thorne as Dr. Dani, a psychotherapist to the New York Hawks, opened strong season one with 4.2 million viewers but lost more than 1/3 of its viewers last year.

Instead of cancelling the series, USA asked the creators to revamp the concept. So they came up with the idea of this "Entourage" type agency led by Stamos' character Connor McClane, who hires Dr. Dani in the first episode.

Stamos himself was intrigued by the idea and working with Thorne, who he also knew from her days on "Rescue Me."

"I'm almost 50," he said. "I've gotten caught up in my Peter Pan syndrome. I've got to start playing adult characters with power. This seemed like a perfect fit. He's an interesting duplicitous guy who is both good and bad sides."

Thorne herself was psyched to hear Stamos possibly joining the cast. "I cried tears of joy," she said. "I started breathing a little heavy. When I heard his name mentioned, I tried to think of anyone we knew in common. But then I realized we didn't have any mutual friends."

When he actually did sign on, Thorne said,  "I started having fantasies of what the storylines would be. I'm not going to lie. I'm a fan going back to 'General Hospital.' Through the years, I've loved watching his career evolve at such an amazing way. He's so gifted and charming and kind. I'm proud that he wanted to come play with us. I'm still angling for a bigger storyline for them. I'm pushing for it!"

But while there is underlying chemistry between Dani and Connor, there is no romance between the two - at least in the early going.  "In general, he's a guy who keeps his personal stuff to himself," Stamos said. 

Though he plays an agent representing athletes, Stamos is not a sports fan. "I don't get it," he said. "Someone has to lose. I tried playing golf with my dad as a kid. I hit a ball that flew past this woman's temple by a quarter of an inch. That kind of ended it for me."

Stamos' character does dress sharply. He talked to the press on set in a Dolce and Gabbana suit. "I learned a big lesson from 'Full House.' Go classic. Don't follow trends." (I popped up some photos of him through Google images from his 'Full House' days and he winced at his mullet. "What's that? A raccoon on my head?")

Over the years, Stamos has stretched beyond his eye candy reputation and done dramatic roles on "ER" and on Broadway, but the Uncle Jesse character is tough to shake. "I'm happy to talk about it," he said. "But sometimes it gets frustrating. I'm on stage with James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury and someone yells out, 'Uncle Jesse!' "

Not that he's complaining about his life as a whole: "I've had a dream career. The only thing I seem to be missing is a wax figure!"

He still plays drums on occasion for the Beach Boys. And when he recently attended a Willie Nelson concert at Chastain last month, the band convinced him to join in for a few songs. "I'm playing 'Georgia on My Mind' in Georgia and thinking, 'This is as good as it gets!' "

And how important is Stamos to "Necessary Roughness"?

Sony, the production company, shelled out at least $850,000 to build the set, which is ultra white, ultra big and full of character. "It's a little Google, a little CAA, a little Apple," said executive producer Craig Shapiro. Check out the photos on the left of the set.

"This is one of the coolest sets I've ever worked on," Stamos said.

"It's so bright," Thorne said. "It's a bright, shiny object. It's seductive."

Stamos himself downplays his importance to the show. "I was on 'The New Normal' and that got cancelled," he mused. "I hope people watch it. It's a really fresh approach for the show."

The de-emphasis on the New York Hawks meant the sets at EUE Screen Gems for the New York Hawks football were dismantled, leaving only Dr. Dani's home there. Clark Atlanta is still used for the Hawks' practice fields. (They're using Mailing Avenue Stageworks for Stamos' V3 agency.)

Other changes: Athletic trainer Matthew "Matt" Donnally is being written off, Dr. Dani's oldest son is out of the picture, her daughter will only appear a couple of times, Nico reappears mysteriously at V3 and brash football player TK becomes a client at V3.

Plus, USA reduced the season order from 16 episodes last year to just 10 this time around.

So the Stamos effect will have to be quick if the show plans to survive a fourth season.

(Adding a stickler to the proceedings is NBC. A pilot starring Stamos this year "I Am Victor" did not get picked up, but Deadline.com reports that the network has asked for a rewrite, which means the project is not 100% dead.)

TV preview

"Necessary Roughness," 10 p.m. Wednesday (starting June 12), USA

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