By: Aleks Chan
Mark Feuerstein, bless him, can gravitate to his own brand of boyish affability regardless of the source material. He’s the definition of solid: as the producer of a low-rated news show in GOOD MORNING, MIAMI; as Toni Collette’s love interest in IN HER SHOES; as Sussana Thompson’s younger boyfriend on ONCE AND AGAIN; and as the Hamptons rent-a-doc on USA’s new dramedy (heavy on the “medy” part) ROYAL PAINS – the guy can’t help but be likable.
And perhaps that’s his problem. Too easily taken as “earnest,” he’s been playing the nice guy for far longer than merited. But what’s one more go, right?
Hank Lawson is an up and coming New York City physician who unintentionally botches his career and engagement to his fiancée after one of the trustees of the hospital he works at dies under his care. Jobless and morose, he stews in his underwear until his randy brother Evan (Paulo Costanzo, who is essentially playing the exact same character he played on JOEY), who conveniently doubles as his accountant, swoops in to break his rut with a weekend in the Hamptons.
Whilst attending a lavish mansion party, a girl falls ill, leaving Hank to save her. He catches the eye of the mysteriously gloomy and brooding mansion owner (Campbell Scott), who likens him as an on-call, under-the-radar medical attention that keeps his name out of the hospital and the press. His work makes waves throughout town, rolling crises after crises upon Hank, who mostly puts up a lame hesitance before he jets off to the rescue.
The pilot – running long at 75 minutes – meanders awhile on Hank’s trepidation with being a “concierge doctor,” and is all kinds of lazy. The premiere – helmed by Jace Alexander, who also directed the BURN NOTICE pilot – takes its time, slowly trotting out pans of castle-like beachfront properties and sparkling ocean waves. And when it comes time for action, it barely lifts a finger: Hank, having to work in peoples’ homes, is forced to use household items to treat patients. Like MCGYVER. And just like BURN NOTICE. His beautiful and exotic assistant Divya (Reshma Shetty) just appears rather than being introduced. His romantic pursuit of hospital administrator Jill (Jill Fint)? Forget it.
And yet it doesn’t really matter, does it? USA has been, since MONK I believe, a loyal preferred subscriber to breathlessly inoffensive programming with modest expectations and goals. ROYAL PAINS fits the bill, perfectly. It stands to be a nice, reliable hit for the network, which seems to have abandoned anything of narrative heft in the past few years (shed a tear for the dearly departed 4400, which was like Heroes’ first season all the time) in favor of characters with marketable personalities. (If doesn’t manage to take off? Then it just finishes its run, and goes away, to be forgotten and replaced with something equally innocuous.) And why not? Isn’t there a saying for trying to fix what isn’t broken? Grade: C+
ROYAL PAINS premieres tonight at 10PM on USA Network