Ezra Miller, Meredith Hagner
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All photos © USA
Reviewed by Will Harris
he USA Network has had such a good run on its crime shows lately – “Monk,” “Psych,” “In Plain Sight,” and the list goes on – that you can’t blame them for sticking with what works, but at the same time, there’s also no better time to take a shot outside the box and try something that’s at least a little bit different, just to see if the viewers will bite. Given that they’re the home of “House” reruns, it’s no surprise that they’d opt for their very own medical-themed series, but who would’ve expected that they’d throw a little bit of “Macgyver” into the mix?
In the pilot for “Royal Pains,” Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein) is an ER doctor with a strange tendency to focus on the medical conditions of his patients rather than their economic status. You’d think that would be an acceptable rule of thumb, but it bites poor Hank in the ass when he decides to work on an urban youth who’s fighting for his life rather than a gentleman who’s a substantial donor to the hospital. Even though Hank saves the boy, the hospital focuses on the fact that the donor had an unexpected complication and died. As a result, Hank suddenly finds himself unexpectedly unemployed, a fact to which his fiancée is decidedly unsympathetic. Left single and without a job, Hank’s slacker brother, Evan (Paolo Costanzo), tries to cheer him up by suggesting that they take a drive into the Hamptons, so that they might party with the rich folks, pick up chicks, and pretend to live the good life for the duration of an evening.
As tends to happen in pilot episodes, things don’t go quite according to plan: at the party which Hank and Evan have sneaked into, a supermodel takes ill, and when the resident doctor offers a snap diagnosis that Hank knows to be wrong, he steps in and saves the woman’s life. The host of the party, Boris Kuester von Jurgens-Ratenicz (Campbell Scott), is so grateful that he gifts Hank a bar of gold and offers him a position as his concierge doctor – which is to say that he’d keep Hank on retainer. Hank declines the offer, much to his brother’s chagrin, but the damage has been done: Hank’s become the talk of the Hamptons, and everyone in the area who needs a doctor and doesn’t want to deal with the lowly peons at the local hospital is calling and offering to pay him for his services. Enter Divya Katdare (Reshma Shetty), a young woman who submits a request to serve as Hank’s medical assistant, and the next thing you know, Hank’s got himself a new career in medicine.
It’s good to see Feuerstein finally get a chance to demonstrate his gifts for the comedic and the dramatic in a single series, since it’s usually one or the other: his previous series was Stanley Tucci’s short-lived medical drama, “3 lbs.,” and prior to that, he suffered the critics’ slings and arrows as the male lead in NBC’s oft-maligned Thursday night comedy, “Good Morning Miami.” It’s also nice to see Costanzo get another shot at a series, since he was a consistent bright spot as Joey Tribiani’s nephew, Michael, on the ill-advised “Friends” spin-off, “Joey,” but as Evan Lawson, he’s more effective when he’s not quite so in-your-face with his punchlines. As the season progresses, the character is toned down a bit, moving from a tendency toward irresponsibility to a burgeoning businessman with a legitimate interest in doing the best he can as the CFO of “HankMed,” as Hank’s practice is called.
“Royal Pains” does the “patient of the week” thing, as medical series are wont to do, but it also has a few ongoing storylines. First and foremost, Hank’s single now, but while he’s not exactly on the prowl, he’s definitely got his eye on Jill Casey (Jill Flint), an administrator at the local hospital. The will-they, won’t-they aspect of their semi-relationship feels too obvious, though, especially when Jill’s ex-husband – also a physician – returns to the Hamptons and takes a job at the hospital. Of the recurring patients, certainly the most fascinating is Boris, whose mystery illness keeps us guessing throughout the season, but there’s also comedy from the plastic-surgery-obsessed Ms. Newberg (Christine Ebersole) and drama from hemophiliac teenager Tucker Bryant (Ezra Miller), his cyberchondriac girlfriend (Meredith Hagner), and his alcoholic father (Andrew McCarthy).
Season One of “Royal Pains” doesn’t offer an overly dramatic cliffhanger, but it does seem to be setting up an interesting storyline which seems likely to further the character development of the Lawson brothers. If the series can dump the soap-opera aspects of the Hank / Jill relationship and focus more on the medical business at hand and the bond between Hank and Evan, “Royal Pains” may well be heading for four-star territory.
Special Features: The cast and crew team up for a few audio commentaries, and there’s also a gag reel, a featurette about the show’s resident MD behind the scenes, Dr. Irv Danesh, and a collection of Costanzo’s video blogs which had previously only been available on the show’s website. What proves most revelatory, however, is the collection of deleted scenes from throughout the season. Specifically, there’s a scene which was cut from an episode early in the season which completely telegraphs a revelation in the season finale. Guess they decided to hold onto that particular Lawson family secret for a little while longer…