The rich are just like us, only with bigger houses and, apparently, more ostentatious ailments. That’s the basic premise of “Royal Pains,” USA’s latest light drama that tweaks an established genre (think “Burn Notice”) in a blue-sky setting, as if the whole channel had an aversion to long pants. Mostly, it’s a vehicle for the well-traveled but boyish Mark Feuerstein as a “concierge doctor” to the rich and semi-famous residents of the Hamptons. Breezy escapism isn’t terrible as calculated formulas go, but nobody risks suffering a headache from being forced to over-think the 75-minute premiere.
Racing to set up the basic template, fast-rising young ER doctor Hank Lawson (Feuerstein) makes a life-or-death decision that puts him in hot water with hospital administrators, costing him his job and fiance in one fell swoop. Depressed enough to watch daytime TV, he grudgingly allows his nerdy accountant brother (Paulo Costanzo, essentially playing the same character he did in “Joey,” only older) to talk him into a weekend in the Hamptons complete with a lavish party.
Surprise, surprise, but an emergency in the mansion compels Hank to leap into action, earning the attention of a wealthy socialite (Campbell Scott) who likes having an M.D. at his beck and call. Hank resists, but there’s one crisis after another, meaning Hank has to save patients by using common household items, a bit like a medical MacGyver. (A character actually makes that joke, but it’s a teenage girl, who in reality never would have heard of “MacGyver.” But let us not pick nits.)
Written by Andrew Lenchewski (who co-created the show with John P. Rogers) and directed by “Notice” helmer Jace Alexander, “Pains’ ” premiere spends too long stalling as Hank resists the inevitable, while his sex-obsessed brother drools over the local fauna. When a beautiful assistant (Reshma Shetty) shows up behind thick glasses offering to become Hank’s physician’s assistant, it’s pretty clear the producers aren’t sweating reality, though they might be watching too much Cinemax.
The main drawback is that Hank’s interactions with the wealthy and eccentric (a girl asks “What kind of plane do you have?”) risk growing stale quickly — like, almost before the pilot’s over. And even with comely diversions like a local hospital administrator (Jill Flint), the show’s going to require more dramatic heft than simply approximating Bravo’s “Real Housewives” franchise by resembling “The Fictional Housewives of East Hampton.”
To its credit, the series (which counts father-son tandem Rich Frank and Paul Frank among its producers) is utterly unpretentious about its modest creative ambitions, and in this day and age, who doesn’t like the idea of a doctor who makes house calls? Simply being quirky, however, only goes so far, so my preliminary diagnosis is that these “Pains” don’t amount to much more than a second-degree “Burn.”