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It’s no accident that the pilot for “Royal Pains” was directed by Jace Alexander, who also helmed the opener of “Burn Notice.” Both shows fit nicely into the niche USA Network is carving out when it comes to summer series, offering the equivalent of popcorn movies over 12-episode seasons. Just like the earlier show, “Pains” has plenty of snappy one-liners being delivered by impossibly beautiful people who don’t even pretend to hide their willingness to sleep with each other.
But “Pains” takes the game one step further by becoming full-on emotional porn for people obsessed with wealth and power. It’s like “Entourage” on crack, except instead of having to sympathize with a talentless actor and his friends, viewers get to live vicariously through Dr. Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein), an upright, heroic physician who falls ass-backward into money and women, all the while sporting a healthy tan and self-deprecating sense of humor.
After a rich hospital benefactor dies on Hank’s watch, he’s fired from his top-flight New York trauma unit and forced to deal with mounting bills and the threat of litigation. Even his fiancee, apparently only in it for the money, leaves him. To cheer Hank up, his brother, Evan (Paulo Costanzo), takes him on a road trip to the Hamptons for Memorial Day weekend to crash a few parties and try and hook up with a model. But when he saves a young woman at a party, Hank is branded as the town’s new “concierge doctor,” a physician in waiting for the rich and famous. The pilot deals with Hank’s reluctance toward but eventual acceptance of the summerlong role and its attendant perks.
The weird thing is that Hank doesn’t seem to hold any grudge against the egotistical or entitled characters he meets beyond a basic Hippocratic belief in quality treatment for all. The fact that he lost his job because of someone very much like the people he’s now waiting on is a pretty obvious generator of character conflict, but the script from co-creator Andrew Lenchewski never touches on it.
Still, “Pains” is fun to watch. Feuerstein and Costanzo have an instant and believable chemistry, and no matter how many interchangeable women come through their lives, this is the best relationship on the show. The series is superficial and glossy but still slick and enjoyable. It’s just a beach read, but it’s a good one.
Airdate: 10 p.m. Thursday, June 4 (USA)
Cast: Mark Feuerstein, Paulo Costanzo, Reshma Shetty, Jill Flint
Production companies: Universal Cable Prods.
Executive producers: Paul Frank, Rich Frank, Jeff Kwatinetz, Michael Rauch
Co-executive producers: Andrew Lenchewski, Jace Alexander, John Rogers
Producer: Christine Sacani
Creators: Andrew Lenchewski, John Rogers
Writer: Andrew Lenchewski
Director: Jace Alexander
Director of photography: Michael Slovis
Production designer: Ray Kluga
Casting: Susie Farris
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