USA Returns with 'Burn,' 'Pains'

USA has developed a nice little niche of character-driven, fun programming, and it returns two of their best series tonight.

"Burn Notice" (USA, 9 p.m.), arguably one of the most fun hours of TV anywhere, is back with a new season. When we last left Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan), he had just taken down a psychopath killer only to be detained himself. We open up seeing who has taken Michael, and why.

Meanwhile, Michael's compatriots Sam (Bruce Campbell) and Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) are carrying on his tradition of helping people out of jams. This time, it's a lawyer who has run afoul of a biker gang.

"Burn Notice" is followed by the summer hit "Royal Pains," which follows Dr. Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein), who has set up a nice practice in the Hamptons, catering to the uber-rich. When we last left Hank, his brother Evan (Paulo Costanzo) had just lost all of the business' money by giving it to their deadbeat dad (Henry Winkler, joining the cast).

Hank and his team have to help an infomercial star who keeps injuring himself in a variety of offbeat ways.

USA may not offer the deep programming of AMC nor the thrillrides of FX, but it has developed a solid lineup of fun shows that are well worth watching. Tonight's a good night to start.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Game 1 of the NBA finals tips off between the Lakers and the Celtics (ABC, 8:30 p.m.) Twenty years ago, I would have cared. Now, not so much.

Fox has two hours of "So You Think You Can Dance" beginning at 8 p.m., while NBC has a new episode of the "Friends" wannabe "100 Questions" at 8:30. I did laugh a few times during this, but not enough to sustain watching it.