ROYAL PAINS 2.12: Open Up Your Yenta Mouth and Say Ah

For my money, the summer finale of ROYAL PAINS came at just the right time, interrupting a series that has been suffering a bit of sophomore slump.

It feels to me like this show needed a break. It has been meandering along, good-naturedly enough, but also kind of aimlessly. The recurring presence of Henry Winkler as Hank (Mark Feuerstein) and Evan’s (Paulo Costanzo) shady daddy, Eddie R., lent the illusion that there was an ongoing umbrella story for the season, but it’s been more like an on-again, off-again distraction. Initially, Eddie was just a pure tease; it’s only recently that much of his story was larded on. I have to admit that I did not foresee Eddie turning out to be a government informer targeting Boris (Campbell Scott). Top marks for that little inversion of audience expectations.

For most of the season, viewers were treated to scenes of the brothers sniping over Eddie R., alternating between whom Eddie loved more and whom he ignored more. Eddie, meanwhile, spent time alternately glad-handing townsfolk, schmoozing rich Mrs. Newberg (Christine Ebersol), and engaging in activities that seemed vaguely sinister (like lifting stationery and copying Boris’ signature). I also have found myself underwhelmed by the other ongoing background arcs: Divya (Reshma Shetty) is still on a path of arranged marriage to Raj (Rupak Ginn), while Boris’ adventures in Cuba have resulted in an increasingly grumpy Boris and a secret pregnancy.

Amiable as a puppy, the show has turned in some excellent individual episodes, such as the aftermath of the wild party in The Hankover.” But most other stories have been just “meh,” like the one with the Hollywood action star. The case of the week has become almost a distraction as I pay far more attention to the romantic trials and tribulations of Hank & Jill (Jill Flint), Hank & Emily (Anastasia Griffith), Evan & Paige (Brooke D’Orsay) and Divya & Raj – but especially Evan & Divya! (Yes, I’m going over to their side.) The drop-dead gorgeous physician’s assistant spent the last two weeks enamored of crusading documentary filmmaker Adam (Patrick Heusinger) and lamenting that she has been unable to connect with Raj in the same way. Meanwhile, Boris has spent the season growing a personality thanks to his surreptitious treatments in Cuba under the care of Marissa (Paola Turbay). It’s just too bad that this personality is even more anti-social than his earlier self.

None of this is meant to imply that ROYAL PAINS is bad, by any means. It just could be more interesting to watch better. What I’m saying is, by now viewers have seen enough splendid mansions and scenic beaches; encountered enough disaffected rich people and salt-of-the-earth regular folks. I have certainly seen more than enough grotesque injuries and maladies. Although I admit I cannot get enough of Hank’s MacGyver-inspired makeshift medical devices and improvised treatments. BTW, the presence of guest star Rena Sofer should be taken as danger sign, since she has an unfortunate tendency to appear on shows destined for cancellation. So the main, “A” plotlines need to really pick up some major slack. I’m hoping the break in production has refreshed the batteries for the production team. And, if nothing else, but the time the second half of the season rolls around in January 2011, audiences will have grown nostalgic.

My favorite lines this week come Divya, who claimed, “I’m not a very satisfying Google-ee,” and (of course) Evan, who bristled at being called the money man; he prefers “fiscal gentleman.”

I hope to see much more of such cleverness when the series returns.

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