In an article last summer on the USA Network show, I wrote, "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." On June 3rd, season two of the series premieres, and after watching the opener, while I may understand it better, I like it less. Whereas before I was "okay with everything that takes place on the show," the season premiere makes me less okay with it all. What was a lack of enthusiasm and much contemplation has evolved into doubt.
Royal Pains' season premiere picks up soon after the finale left off. HankMed, the concierge doctor service run by Dr. Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein), PA Divya Katdare (Reshma Shetty), and CFO Evan R. Lawson (Paul Costanzo) is still in dire financial straits. This issue stems from Evan's gross mismanagement, lending money to Hank and Evan's ne'er-do-well father who walked out on them years before (Evan had secretly been in touch with their father, Eddie, as of late). But, Hank and Evan are brothers so despite Evan's nearly running the firm into the ground and, we're told by Divya, generally being bad at his job even when he's not being suckered by his father, Evan takes him back at the beginning of the season.
While the televisual motives for that are obvious – it's easier to keep Costanzo in the mix on the series if he's part of the group – Hank's clear displeasure with his brother throughout the premiere episode make one wonder why he would, in such short order, take Evan back. Yes, it's family, but surely Hank wouldn't have been wrong to leave Evan dangling for a little while. It may be possible to argue that Hank's motivations come from being ridiculously pro-family. His arguments against his own father's actions would clearly argue against it, but the case of the week would argue for it.
While I won't go into too much detail on what takes place, Hank is working for a man whose father recently passed away, and the son is spending a lot of time cleaning out his father's old workspace. At one point, though it's clearly upsetting to the son to complete the task, the son argues that he has to do it. Hank takes the opposite stance, suggested that it's "crazy" to clear out the father's panic room, and that the man should just ignore that it's there.
Obviously when a loved one passes away it can be difficult to deal with all the things they leave behind, but arguing against dealing with it seems like bad advice as Hank isn't suggesting that it ought to be done at a later date when the man is feeling better. Hank instead is taking the tack that it ought not be done at all (what would the world look like if everyone took that stance?), that the paranoid panic room that the father put in should remain in the house, complete with the father's stuff, forever.
Extrapolated, that, in a nutshell, is the issue with the premiere. It is full of moments where the audience only has to stop and think for a second about what is taking place to realize the foolishness of it all. Television shows that take place in alternate universes or on alien worlds or at some point in the not-too-distant future can more readily get away with such issues — after all, we don't necessarily understand all the motives in such a world. This show is not in such a world.
Royal Pains may deal with the life of the super-rich in the Hamptons, but Hank is supposed to be the normal guy thrown into the abnormal world; he's the average Joe (but great doctor) that we're supposed to identify with. To watch him continually do odd and at-odds-with-one-another things makes it awfully hard to identify with the character.
It is far more easy to understand where Shetty's Divya is coming from with her troubles in the premiere – she is being forced into a marriage she doesn't particularly relish. It is also easier to understand where Hank's would-be girlfriend and the administrator of the local hospital, Jill Casey (Jill Flint), is coming from as her job is being threatened. In her case, however, as with last season, Jill still doesn't seem like a particularly good administrator so one can understand the other side of the issue as well.
Those two characters are not the main characters on the show – that position goes to Feuerstein's Hank. While I still feel as I did last year about the actors — they're perfectly good in their roles and not in any way the problem with the show — they don't make up for what the show lacks in sensible plotting. I still hold out hope that they'll figure it out – I do still want to know more about the characters – but it is a dwindling hope. Henry Winkler will be joining the show this season as the Lawson boys' father, but whether he'll be able to solve the issues with the show is up in the air.
Royal Pains second season premieres June 3 on USA at 10pm.