PTR Senior Staff Writer
Character. Setting. Conflict.
Three critical elements to any good story told anywhere in this solar system.
Three elements harped on by my creative writing teacher.
Three elements that move a story.
On first impressions, I'm happy to say the new USA Network series, Royal Pains, has all three.
Character: Dr. Hank Lawson, an up-and-coming New York ER doctor who decides to do the right thing then gets fired for it. That is, he saves the life of a less-than-well-to-do patient whilst one of the hospital's most precious, wealthy, powerful and important patients dies on the operating table. As such, Hank's blackballed from getting a job in any other ER within 8 million light years of Earth as a lengthy malpractice suit begins.
Setting: To escape his new found life of nothingness - which includes a break-up with his fiancé, his house being two steps short of being repossessed, and one too many boxes of cold pizza - Hank ventures with his younger brother - albeit reluctantly - to the Hamptons. Enough said.
Conflict: After his fair share of sarcastic - and might I say clever - banter with all of the Botox Barbies, rich boy know-nothings and every other version of extreme wealthy-ite that frequent any Hampton party at any given moment, Hank is forced into making a medical rescue at said party, which in turn, makes him Concierge Doctor # 1. Given he has to operate in almost a MacGyver-like existence (since treating patients in this manor is generally kept on the DL), he isn't all that comfortable with his new role. It isn't what he was born to do. Or is it? He questions why he's even in the Hamptons, and how fixing flat tire boob jobs could possibly be worthwhile. Then, he saves the life of a young teenage hemophiliac where dad's presence basically boils down to a black American Express card.
It is this interesting dilemma - Hank having to cater to the rich as the only way to really still practice his love and dedication to medicine - that I find curious. Not to mention the show gives us a look at the idea of concierge medicine: private doctors for hire by those who can afford it. As star Mark Feuerstein recently told us, it's a burgeoning business. Given the state of our health care system - or lack thereof - it doesn't seem difficult to understand why. If you could afford to pay a well-pedigreed doctor to take care of you, and thus, bypass the hassle of all the HMO/PPO/TKO/WTF insurance lethargy that has choked all sense of reason OUT of the health care system in this country, wouldn't you?
I sure the heck would.
But the show isn't political. It isn't saying this business is right or wrong. It's just saying this exists, and here's a creative look at it. And as such, it gets points from me for taking the "medical drama" concept and turning it on its edge.
Or, perhaps you could say, giving it an edge.
Not to mention placing it in an eye-candy location like the Hamptons makes the show ridiculously fun to watch. Like a weekly vacation. And poking fun at Hampton-ness is also kick. They are world all unto themselves and proud of it. What size is your Learjet?
Mark Fuerestein delivers a solid performance as Hank. He has an uneasy easiness in suddenly finding himself the "It" guy in an exclusive environment that is a far cry from the ER doc he was groomed to be. There are some out there who think he's too bland and understated in this role, but I disagree. It is this understated and NOT over the top performance that makes us truly feel as if Hank is settling in in the most unsettled of ways.
There is a spectacularly genius chemistry between Hank and younger brother, Evan, portrayed by Paulo Costanzo. This is as good as the now defunct Eric McCormack/Tom Cavanagh Trust Me partnership. The dialogue between Hank and Evan just.rips - as good as Mary and Marshal over on In Plain Sight. Got to hand it to USA Network: they know characters.
Rounding out the supporting cast is the insane precision of Hank's new assistant, Divya, to which Reshma Shetty is pitch-perfect. Divya is ambitious, persistent and unwavering, but not in an annoying way. She comes off as the most crucial asset Hank is going to have as he undertakes this new role. And, Jill Flint takes the turn as the administrator of the Hampton's hospital, which caters to the ordinary folk and to which the richy-riches refuse to go unless forced by some freak force of nature. There's some romantic inclinations between Hank and Jill, but it's again subtle.
And did we mention Campbell Scott portrays Boris, Hank's new "landlord" - the one who threw the party and hired Hank on the spot?
Character. Setting. Conflict.
With those key elements so well displayed, Royal Pains has got me interested.
New episodes of Royal Pains air Thursdays at 10 p.m. on USA Network. You can join other fans on Facebook; follow Royal Pains on Twitter, or visit the official Royal Pains Web site for the scoop on the series!