Suits, White Collar, Burn Notice: Why We Still Yearn for USA’s “Blue Sky” Shows


There’s something magical about “Blue Sky” television.

The stakes were high, but the love and appreciation for character-driven stories were even higher.

Inarguably, USA Network gave us one of the best eras of television, and it is now leaving us nostalgic and longing for a repeat.

Chasing After Nostalgia: Blue Sky Appeal is Undeniable

Is there a yearning for “Blue Sky” shows? Resoundingly, yes!

If it wasn’t already evident that people still long for this particular television format years later, we needn’t look further than the Suits Renaissance on Netflix.

Related: Suits: LA Spinoff: Everything We Know So Far

Suits has garnered such massive appeal so many years after it signed off that it’s become a pop-culture juggernaut.

White Collar joins the ranks of finding a whole new audience delighting in Neal and Peter’s shenanigans on multiple streaming platforms.

Although, it’s Netflix specifically that garners the best results and most impactful reach.

Every other month, we hear new details about another potential project that would capitalize on the massive appeal and devotion to Psych.

Monk’s lasting impact on the masses not only resulted in a film, but its open-ended nature nearly guarantees another despite the series premiering almost two decades ago.

Related: Mr Monk’s Last Case Review: A Lighthearted Reunion with Serious Overtones Is Well Worth the Wait

Hits in their own way; it’s fascinating how many shows from the Blue Sky Era have resurged and found a revitalized success and a broader audience.

The magic that series like this have been able to create is timeless and can likely continue a pattern of finding mini-resurgences as new viewers connect with the content.

The Blue Sky yearning combined with classic nostalgia has fortunately sparked various revivals and reboots, proving that despite the series delivered to us across multiple streaming platforms and premier cable stations, many viewers are still dipping back to the past.

And sometimes, they even hope to mine new content from what they’ve already fallen in love with and know.

Related: Suitors’ Apathy: How Suits L.A. Already ‘Fails Its Spinoff” With Calamitous Casting

It results in a Suits reboot, which will see Stephen Amell leading a legal drama that hopes to capture the hearts of those who fell in love with the series.

We have doubts about Suits: LA and its cast, but we shall see if it can produce the same appeal and magic.

And Psych has been the gift that keeps on giving, building an entire empire from this delightful series with enviable lasting power and marketing.

Syndication was an asset for this series, which inspired multiple novels, produced three follow-up movies, with an additional three in the works, and launched a podcast.

White Collar has long-time fans on edge, with the recent confirmation that the remaining cast members are in talks with Jeff Eastin and a script has been written for a revival.

Given the Suits effect, it’s most assuredly a go.

A particular television formula is seeing this revitalization, but why?

Character-Driven Shows Connect with Viewers

When it comes to Blue Sky Dramas, USA Network cornered the market.

The NBCUniversal cable network had one of the best promotion and marketing teams, which ushered in a “Characters Welcome” tagline and emphasis.

Related: Suits, Ted Lasso, and the Rise of Comfort TV: Is the Desire for Easy Viewing Creating a Barren Streaming Landscape?

And with that, it showed an understanding of audiences and what they desired.

Blue sky dramas like Burn Notice and White Collar didn’t just tease the idea of rich and compelling characters, but they delivered them.

In hindsight, we’ve taken a dark turn regarding characters and what networks and the “powers that be” believe are most compelling.

For whatever reason, we’ve shifted to this idea that complex characters must be shades of gray.

There’s this notion that complexity is somehow intertwined with heavily flawed, melancholic, and weighed down.

Characters now wear their traumas and flaws on their sleeves with this false misbelief that to be remotely interesting or even multifaceted; a character has to be haunted by demons with this dark cloud that seems to hang over their heads.

We’ve reached a point in television where shows are predominately dark and gritty, and the characters are flawed and grim in the name of edginess.

For so much of the premier and prestige television now, gritty plots and Emmy-chasing “moments” have been the primary focus.

Unfortunately, well-rounded characters have taken a backseat.

When White Collar‘s Neal Caffery is mentioned, you can’t help but smile and think fondly of him.

He’s a character who connects with viewers from all walks of life with his natural charisma, mischievousness, pure heart, and devotion to love.

Related: White Collar Reboot Starring Matt Bomer, Tiffani Thiessen In Development

Even at his worst or most puzzling, he didn’t stop being an endearing character.

Not to mention, White Collar understands how to bring balance to its characters.

They took an archetype and built upon it so well that it no longer felt like a tired trope but instead was a breath of fresh air.

Of course, Burn Notice’s Michael Weston is the type of character you genuinely want to hang out with, which made each moment of following Burn Notice’s saga of thrilling misadventures all the more fun.

And we needn’t unpack why Suits is successful on multiple fronts.

But it’s mainly because the perfect cast brings to life a host of characters you relate to or want to be.

The characters, their interactions with each other, and any conflicts that arise are what make Suits such a thrilling ride.

Blue Sky shows know how to lead with the characters first and then build the plots and conflicts around them, a proven formula for keeping viewers coming back for more.

Ultimately, we may not recall every plot point in one of our favorite shows, but we’ll never forget how the characters we love and connected to made us feel or how they felt as real to viewers as loved ones and friends.

Blue Sky Shows Genre-Bend and Genre-Blend

Television comprises so many different genres, and we’ve strayed away from combining them to make something engaging and instead stick to very rigid formats.

Related: The Age of Nostalgia: Why Young Audiences Are Seeking Old TV

Blue Sky series has this wonderful way of bending and blending various series and striking the right balance.

Blue Sky is the epitome of “dramedy” and knows how to deliver on that in various ways without ever feeling like it’s repeating the same pattern.

Underlying constant humor balances things for every tense moment when the firm, a legal license, or a secret may be lost or exposed on Suits.

Yet, Suits, with its quick-witted dialogue and signature delivery akin to Scandal, is a totally different brand of humor than the cheesiness of Psych, the quirkiness of Burn Notice, or the cheekiness of White Collar.

Blue Sky series effortlessly folds the best of sitcom quality and humor into a traditional hour-long drama.

It also pulls from the best of broadcast procedurals with some of the edginess of prestige television without the pretentiousness.

One of the best examples of this is Graceland, which, on paper, would typically look like an edgy cop show.

It’s no wonder that many of these series transition well into the streaming format despite being series that existed long before streaming at its height.

Blue Sky series are genre chameleons.

Related: Some of TV’s Heaviest Moments Came from Lighthearted Shows

By tapping into the best of everything, they appeal to some of everyone, thus expanding their demographic and appealing to a constantly evolving one.

Keeping a Simple Formula Garners The Most Entertaining Results

Sometimes, the simplest approach is the most effective one.

One thing that the Blue Sky series consistently has going for it is that they know what they are and stay consistent.

In that sense, they aptly apply the procedural formatting by sticking to a simple goal and format and making everything revolve around or build up to that.

Instead of focusing on shocking twists and turns or attempting to get one over on viewers, the plots’ results or climaxes are pretty straightforward.

More often than not, the engaging aspects are the obstacles or character conflicts that ultimately affect the journey toward a designated end or goal.

Blue Sky series has an air of realism that feels relatable and grounded for viewers.

Related: Procedural Overkill: TV’s Favorite Genre Has Overtaken Primetime. Is It Too Much of a Good Thing?

The blend of humor and drama, the characters’ approach to normal issues, and the escapist quality make the series easy to identify with as a viewer.

It’s easy to get lost in these types of series.

There’s a predictability and steadiness that is comforting and contributes to the rewatchability factor that makes these series timeless.

They routinely produce the best results by staying within this method.

Entertaining The Audience Supercedes Impressing the Academy and Chasing Emmys and Prestige

What separates the Blue Sky series from everything now is one of the most precise reasons audiences desire them: they prioritize the audience.

They’re not “try-hard,” which has become all too familiar with many prestige series of a similar ilk.

Blue Sky series goals tend to be telling a great story and entertaining the audience.

It’s not to say that they’re shows that take every facet of what fans and viewers say into account and devote too much time to appease them.

Instead, the Blue Sky series clearly prioritizes reaching its audience ahead of anything else.

Rather than creating series and flashy storylines intended to appease the Television Academy and invite award recognition, they’re writing while considering that audience.

From White Collar, credited for making a breakout bonafide star out of Matt Bomer, to Suits, these dramedies have secured nominations and some wins for various awards.

But Blue Sky dramedies never went out of their way to secure a nomination for an Emmy or similar awards.

They never attempted to be the prestigious premier cable show that blatantly designs plots, scenes, and moments to elicit recognition, bait an academy or board into acknowledgment, and disregard the audience in the interim.

Related: Fellow Travelers Goes Out with Tears, Hope, And A Powerful Goodbye

As a result, there’s mutual respect between those who create the content and those who consume it.

Blue Sky shows are written with the audience in mind, understanding that, in the end, it’s the viewers who largely contribute to the lasting power of a series more than anything else.

They Pack the Perfect Amount of Plot Into a Consistent Season with the Perfect Episode Count

Remember when we got more than six to eight episodes in a season?

While that format works wonders for some of the British’s finest police dramas, it doesn’t fare well in the States for literally any type of content.

Blue Sky series was among the best because they produced must-see hour-long dramedies, often in the summer, providing fun and breezy entertainment when nothing else was coming close to matching it.

They succeeded in doing that in a reasonable season that didn’t expose all the flaws of an ultra-short season or leave us wondering if we got ripped off in the process.

Because of the plot formatting, blue sky dramas manage to deliver purely entertaining, at times mystery-filled, conflict-heavy, and character-driven narratives that hit the climax and a great conclusion in roughly 16 episodes.

It’s the perfect episode length: not too short, where storylines don’t have breathing room, everything is jampacked in, and not too long, where things get repetitive.

Escapist -Script Fare Is Essential Now More Than Ever

Fortunately for us, the television landscape is changing, and the network that fashioned the blueprint for the Blue Sky series, USA Network, is vowing to return to its best era.

And the timing can’t be greater.

We learned, especially post-Covid, that there was a desire for lighter fare and fun television.

Related: Whiskey Cavalier: Why Can’t We Have Escapist TV and Other Nice Things?

Unfortunately, many networks have opted for escapist television in the form of reality TV, but that, too, is an oversaturated marker that doesn’t satiate viewers who want scripted fare.

The world is grim enough without being overburdened with bleak plots and dark characters.

With Whiskey Cavalier‘s cancelation, we’ve lamented the loss of escapist television.

And NBC’s Magnum PI was another series that fit the bill and garnered a massive fanbase, but it was cut before its prime.

There have been various efforts to bring back this successful format of television that viewers love.

Fortunately, Wild Cards is another series that has found its footing and secured a renewal, matching a similar formula that viewers have often loved.

But hopefully, with USA Network returning to its “blue sky” scripted fare and what worked, especially after the resurgence of some of its strongest series, we’ll have more to choose from.

We’re long overdue to balance out the gritty prestige dramas.

Do you still yearn for the “Blue Sky” series? Which were your favorites? Will you tune in for reboots and revivals? Let’s hear it below!

Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is an insomniac who spends late nights and early mornings binge-watching way too many shows and binge-drinking way too much tea. Her eclectic taste makes her an unpredictable viewer with an appreciation for complex characters, diverse representation, dynamic duos, compelling stories, and guilty pleasures. You’ll definitely find her obsessively live-tweeting, waxing poetic, and chatting up fellow Fanatics and readers. Follow her on X.

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