USA and TNT Networks

The unsung heroes of insomniac television.

Detective Alexandra Eames (played by Kathryn Erbe) and Detective Robert Goren (played by Vincent D’Onofrio) in ‘Law & Order: Criminal Intent.’ Image Credit: Eric Liewbowitz/USA.

Once television stations move out of primetime at 11 pm, they usually repeat new shows for a few hours before finally turning to infomercials, soap operas, or vintage talk show reruns at around 2 am. This is fine for those who sleep during normal hours and probably went to bed before midnight, but it gets a bit repetitive and monotonous for insomniacs. This leaves us turning away from the “Big Five” networks and tuning into the sub-channels and second (or even third) string options, which — if you know what you’re looking for — are truly prime investments of your time.

The “Big Five” networks are ABC, CBS, NBC, The CW and FOX, with the last two joining the group in the latter half of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first century in the case of The CW (founded in 2006). Amidst the unofficial “Big Three” streaming sites — Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu — and HBO, a few equally awesome networks get thrown into the same category as Lifetime. Two of these incredible networks, arguably the most underrated channels, are USA and TNT, which loosely fall into the “crime-shows-with-occasional-comedies-but-mostly-reruns” category. They’re underrated and completely under-advertised, but USA and TNT host some of the best late-late-night/early-early-morning television.

A poorly made chart of the TV network/channel hierarchy. Image Credit: ‘Cliffhanger’.

The most successful original USA shows have by far been Suits, Mr. Robot, Psych, White Collar, Burn Notice, Covert Affairs, Monk, and the last four seasons of Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Despite being the least known Law & Order spinoff, Criminal Intent was a good investment. Many people certainly enjoy the legal dramas Suits and White Collar, but Burn Notice is one of the true USA standouts. It’s such an underrated show, and fulfilled all of the components of the “Seven Season Theory.” While it might not come up in most successful crime show commentary, it certainly should. It’s a bit like The Mentalist in that sense, and falls under the “high class comfort food” umbrella.

Except for super-fans, USA’s originals are more pleasant surprises once you begin watching the network on a regular basis. The really money maker and notoriety is in the fact that USA Network basically invented binge watching, with marathons of NCIS and Law & Order: SVU a weekly (if not daily) occurence. There’s even a twitter account dedicated to SVU’s prevalence on USA, and the various, creative titles that the network comes up with for the marathons.

The fan-made twitter account for USA’s ‘SVU’ marathons.

TNT, the sister network to TBS, is home to Rizzoli & Isles, The Last Ship, The Closer, Major Crimes, Murder in the First, and Leverage, among others. While Rizzoli & Isles is one of the only series to follow the seven season theory and still be pretty bad and Franklin & Bash has slowly become the butt of most “crappy dramedy” jokes, when a TNT production is good, it’s really good, like Murder in the First. TNT also puts out an inordinate number of network promos, considering the actual viewership that the network gains.

Similar to USA, the network is perhaps most notable for its reruns, strategically investing in the syndication rights to the majority of cops shows not shown on USA. TNT runs all twenty seasons of Law & Order with pride, as well as CSI: New York, Castle, Hawaii Five-O, and The Mentalist, among others, with “morning television” featuring Smallville, Charmed, and Supernatural. Perhaps what differentiates the TNT and USA marathons most is that TNT shows episodes chronologically and maintains some semblance of a schedule, but both are solid investments for late-late-night/-early-early-morning entertainment, or even just background noise to fall asleep to.

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