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The sporting guru whose TV drama was inspired by husbands who play away

"WOMEN with cheating exes make great TV," writes Sean Daly in the New York Post, and it's hard not to agree with him when you think of the good things which can happen to a woman in television land when her husband cheats.

On TV, jilted wives such as Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife survive Gloria Gaynor-style, and get new jobs, new boyfriends and new clothes. In real life we lick our wounds and drink too much red wine, while in celebrity land Sandra Bullock bravely gets on with raising her adopted son alone, and Cheryl Cole is reportedly considering going back to cheating ex Ashley.

Yet in TV land it's different, recently divorced Jules Cobb (played by Courteney Cox) establishes a supportive and caring extended family while chasing toyboys in Cougar Town.

Daly is referring to the newest TV heroine, a New York shrink called Dr Dani Santino, who in a new series called Necessary Roughness reinvents herself as a sports guru having discovered her husband is playing away.

The lead character in the USA Network series is played by Callie Thorne, the gravel-voiced actress best known from Californication and Rescue Me.

In the opening episode, Santino discovers her husband of 17 years has been running around with a number of women and having extra-marital sex in their marital bed.

Santino leaves her husband and lands a job as a sports psychologist to a football team whose expensive star player TK King (played by Mehcad Brooks) is suddenly dropping every ball thrown his way. The team is convinced it's all in his head, and asks Dr Santino to have a chat with him and sort things out.

Necessary Roughness, expected to come our way in the next year, was inspired by the real-life experiences of a Long Island therapist called Donna Dannenfelser. After separating from her husband of almost 20 years, Dannenfelser, a mother of three, became a therapist to celebrities and athletes -- including the American football team the New York Jets.

So convinced was Dannenfelser that hers was an interesting story, she moved to LA in 2006 to get her life made into a TV series. It worked, and not only has she succeeded in selling her story, but she is also listed as supervising producer on the new show. "All the stories are fictional," Dannenfelser told the New York Post this week. "The family stories in the pilot were massaged versions of the truth."



HURTING

She admits to seeing herself in the character Santino, who is based on her, yet is quick to point out that the main marital problems she encountered in real life with her husband Buzz, a garment industry executive, did not involve infidelity per se.

"He was hardly ever home," she says. "We mutually decided that instead of hurting each other and doing such mean things to each other that we can't come back from, why don't we mutually split.

"I was a married woman with children, living the life of a single woman without the benefits of being single," the Los Angeles resident says. "I needed to become independent at that time. So I got this great idea about working with the Jets."

"Necessary Roughness is not a documentary," she insists. "I did not sleep my way into the NFL, and my husband didn't have 10 girlfriends."

The new TV series about infidelity is very much a story of our time -- thanks to Maria Shriver leaving Arnold Schwarzenegger and Elin Nordegren saying good luck to Tiger Woods.

"People that get caught doing the things that those guys did wanted to get caught," Dannenfelser insists.

In fact, her story has a happy ending; she and her husband have reconciled.


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