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TELEVISION REVIEW

Review: 'Royal Pains'

Mark Feuerstein is given a straitjacketed role as a skilled city doctor relocated to the snooty Hamptons, but the supporting cast is colorful and the setting is a summer vacation.

June 04, 2009|ROBERT LLOYD | TELEVISION CRITIC

There is something refreshing, in the way that a Popsicle is refreshing, about a summer series set in the summer in a place where people go to summer -- it amplifies the season. "Royal Pains," which takes place in the Hamptons and premieres tonight on USA, begins with that advantage, and for the most part does not squander it.

Mark Feuerstein plays Hank Lawson, a New York City emergency room doctor who one fatal day follows his instincts rather than his boss' instructions and winds up scapegoated in the death of a billionaire hospital benefactor. In spite of being "the most talented physician this emergency department had seen" he is blacklisted everywhere in the five boroughs, where need for MDs is apparently less great than the pressure a well-endowed foundation can apply. And so he takes to sitting in his apartment in his skivvies, eating cold cereal, drinking beer and watching daytime television. His fiancee quite understandably walks out on him, though she is revealed as fundamentally shallow before she does, in order that we may still think better of him than of her.

Into this den of inertia walks Hank's fun-loving accountant brother Evan (Paul Costanzo), who spirits him off to crash a Memorial Day bash at the baronial manse of a trillionaire named Boris (Campbell Scott, with an accent). As invented fate would have it, he saves the life of a supermodel party guest, not only from the toxic insecticide she inhaled in the garden but from the lazy house doctor who was going to treat her for opioid poisoning. (She falls in love with him.)

Here, young doctor lectures old: "See the problem with assuming the worst about people is that it lets you stop searching for culprits," says Hank, who noticed a thing or two the old doc didn't.

By the time tonight's pilot is over, he has saved three lives (the last using a bottle of vodka, a knife, sandwich bags, duct tape and a ballpoint pen) and evened out Christine Ebersol's breasts. He has acquired, reluctantly, an eager assistant (Reshma Shetty); gone into business as a roving physician to the Hamptons rich (who value secrecy, because that is how they roll); and found a new love interest in the director of the local hospital (Jill Flint). Where Hank's ex-intended accused him of never being "able to accept the things you can't change," this girl says, "We need to change the things we can't accept."

Feuerstein ("Conrad Bloom," "Good Morning, Miami" and a lot else) plays another of the put-upon menschen for which casting directors like him. There are some problems: Except for his scenes as a depressed couch potato, Hank is all super skills and high-mindedness, which makes him in most respects the least interesting character here.

The best stuff happens around him: As his comical brother, Costanzo makes a shallower but more consistent part quite charming. And Ezra Miller, as a super-rich latchkey teen abandoned by his father in a modernist architectural showplace, gives a lesson in intelligent underplaying; by relaxing into his part, he makes it real.

The Hamptons themselves, and the other bits of Long Island that stand in for them here, help sell the show. The sunny shore, the grasses, the seabirds -- it's a vacation just looking at them.

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robert.lloyd@latimes.com

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'Royal Pains'

Where: USA

When: 10 tonight

Rating: Not rated

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