Friday , December 1 2023
Royal Pains isn't great, but it might be able to achieve greatness... maybe.

Royal Pains: Looking for Greatness

After several weeks of watching it, I find myself totally and completely unconvinced by Royal Pains. I'm not saying that it's bad, I'm not even saying I dislike it, I'm just saying that I don't get it.

Watching the series I have the very strong impression that I'm supposed to like it, that I'm supposed to find it witty and clever and just generally awesome. I don't. I think all the characters are fine. I think all the actors are fine. I'm okay with everything that takes place on the show, I'm just not so enthused and I really think I should be.

I had the same sense with another USA series last year, and ended up deciding that instead of just not being enthused with In Plain Sight, I passively disliked it (I removed it from my TiVo Season Pass list, otherwise the dislike may have become active). Royal Pains isn't like that — I don't have any dislike of the show, I'm not even anywhere near removing it from my TiVo list, I just feel… blah about it. How is that possible?

I don't want to remove it from my TiVo list, because I honestly think it may become fantastically fun and wonderful. After watching the first half of every episode though I end up deciding that the show will not be becoming fantastically fun and wonderful this week, but that greatness still may be just beyond the horizon. Who knows? Maybe it is.

Maybe next week I'll decide that Evan R. Lawson (Paulo Costanzo) is the greatest sidekick ever and oh-so-much better than Costanzo's character on Joey. Right now though, he's just oh-so-much better than Costanzo's character on Joey.

Maybe next week I'll decide that Jill Casey (Jill Flint) is believable as a hospital administrator, because right now she isn't. It's not Flint's fault, Flint makes Casey believable as a character, but I'm not seeing how that character runs a hospital, even a sad little local one.

Maybe next week I'll decide that Divya Katdare (Reshma Shetty) is a fully-fledged character, there are definitely hints that she might be. Right now though, it feels like she just exists on the show because someone somewhere in the development process realized that the show was terribly monochromatic and desperately needed some diversity.

Maybe next week I'll decide that there's actually some semblance of a reason that makes sense for Dr. Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein), our main character, to have stayed in the Hamptons in a job he seems so much to dislike. He's been against this "concierge doctor" thing from the beginning, and even when he seems to grudgingly accept it, he still seems to not like it. I just don't buy that he has to be doing it though. Maybe next week I'll get his motivations, maybe next week I'll believe them. At this point I don't.

I don't feel as though any of these obstacles are insurmountable – perhaps more insurmountable is the fact that almost all of Lawson's rich clients are unlikable, but that too can change. No, most of the problems the show has are things that can be fixed, altered, edited, corrected with time and a little bit of effort. That's why, it seems to me, I'm still on board, it's why I haven't deleted the Season Pass from my TiVo.

For Royal Pains, greatness may be just around the corner, and it's my hope that eventually the show will both reach and turn that corner. I don't think it's a moving target, but it still may not be easy to get to. I'm hoping it does though. I'm rooting for it and not just because I've invested so much time, because I think it has a chance.

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.

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