Royal Pains – TV Review

USA‘s newest series focusing on a brilliant doctor and his run-in with the Hamptons is slow to get moving, and it seems that might be mainly a result of having no clear destination in mind.  Like an ever-expanding list of other recent shows, the general affair seems better suited to something that would become a mildly entertaining movie rather than something that must theoretically go on forever.

royalpains3
USA p/c Justin Stephens

The recent trend seems to be to come up with a vaguely amusing situation and then decide if there is somewhere that situation might ultimately lead.  If yes, it’s a movie.  If no, work it into a series.  The real trouble in this case is that we’re working a fairly limited gag, and it isn’t clear what we’re building around “kooky rich people” to hold interest.

Dr. Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein) seems to have everything going for him, but when he doesn’t babysit an old VIP (and he dies) in favor of saving another patient, his career is suddenly cut short.  When he finds he’s been blackballed, and can’t find another hospital to take him, he soon becomes attached to his comfy chair… and loses his girlfriend.

Enter Hank’s brother Evan (Paulo Costanzo).  Armed with the knowledge of a party in the Hamptons, and little else, Evan tries to get Hank out of his house, and his funk.  As luck would have it, a medical emergency arises, and Hank has the opportunity to come to the rescue.  One thing leads to another, and fabulously rich Boris installs Hank as concierge doctor.  Though Hank hates the idea, Evan loves it, and Hank doesn’t really have many other options.

USA p/c Barbara Nitke
USA p/c Barbara Nitke

The show synchs its gears as Hank discovers that every uber-rich Hampton resident instantly has his phone number, and when he meets the administrator of the local hospital who is trying to help those in the area who can’t quite buy their own doctor.  Hank slowly meanders his way toward something of a medical Robin Hood, taking fat checks from the rich so he can treat the poor.

Hank is likable enough to work in the role, and Evan is loose, wild, and moderately comedic enough to provide balance and interplay, but like many dynamics of the show, you have to wonder how long it will play well.

The show is a decent bit of fun, even if it seems to drag a bit, but it doesn’t have a definite pull.  As I said, it looks like that stems from the fact that the show can’t tell you where it stabilizes, because it doesn’t know.  Sure, we’re working a decent gag with characters who might as well all be named Nick (because Nick’s your buddy, Nick’s your pal), but what does episode twenty look like?  Is it just the next in the line of rich non-people Hank deals with like Dr. Buddha while Evan hatches yet another scheme in an attempt to parlay his brother’s degree into a chance to get laid?

It’s up in the air.  Also up in the air is how the show deals with the end of summer. The next few episodes are going to be the key, and despite the show’s relatively strong performance thus far, if it doesn’t find its footing the joke may get old.  That may leave a second season run relegated to “if nothing else is on” status.

As it is now, it has a lot of potential, but is beginning to flounder in that safe, un-spicy mix of ingredients that makes up the recipe of countless shows which are lovingly referred to as, “Awww… I used to really like that show.”  The potential can be capitalized on, but we’re running out of time if we want to round that corner.

What do you think?  Is it a hit, does it need work, or is it a complete miss?

 

Are You Screening?

 

Marc Eastman
Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

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