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.
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ROYAL PAINS 2.9: Frenemies

If one is supposed to keep one’s friends close, and one’s enemies closer, then where does one keep one’s frenemies? The boys of HankMed got to ponder that question on this week’s ROYAL PAINS.

It definitely seemed like no news would be good news for Hank (Mark Feuerstein), who would have been better off not seeing the local paper – especially since it contained a full-page ad for Dr. Peck (Anastasia Griffith) and a story that quoted Dr. Elizabeth Blair (Marcia Gay Harden) bashing Jill’s (Jill Flint) free clinic. Of course Blair claimed she was misquoted, and what she was really trying to get across was that waiting a few years to open a bigger clinic would help more people. Whatever, Doc.
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ROYAL PAINS 2.8: The Hankover

The most interesting aspect of this lark of a ROYAL PAINS episode was that the subject matter – the aftermath of a drunken night of wild partying – was also the plotline of this week’s episode of RESCUE ME. But while the firefighter drama examined the life-and-death consequences of such a bender, RP took a much lighter approach; one a bit more reminiscent of last year’s hit movie, The Hangover.

Not that this episode was a standalone throwaway; we learned some interesting stuff This story opened the morning after Raj’s (Rupak Ginn) bachelor party, with Hank (Mark Feuerstein) sleeping in a hammock entwined with Dr. Emily Peck (Anastasia Griffith), who praised his skill in the hammock the night before! Divya (Reshma Shetty) and Jill (Jill Flint) awoke in a cab at the beach, with driver Aristotle (Bill Bellamy) passed out behind the wheel. Divya had a flower tattoo on her hip, while Jill had a much larger one on her shoulder. Evan woke up in Boris’ courtyard and was stunned to see Raj lying in the driveway below a balcony, presumably dead. Did Evan kill him in a jealous rage over Divya? The story rewound 24 hours to explain the (relatively benign) means by which everyone ended up in the seemingly serious situations.
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ROYAL PAINS 2.5 and 2.4: No Doc is an Island

Hank became something of a “Hero of the People in Cuba” when he fought to save an “Enemy of the Cuba” with a heart problem in this week’s installment of ROYAL PAINS. Oh, and he also fulfilled his commitment as “house doctor” when he saved Boris’ life in the concluding chapter of a two-part sojourn to the communist island.

Well, Imagine my disappointment when Evan’s kidnapping in last week’s cliff-hanger turned out to be just what I feared/expected: the ol’ “We kidnapped us a doctor” plot, in which a medico is needed to treat someone who must stay hidden, but the doctor’s relative/friend/lover is nabbed by mistake. Happens all the time, right? At least the-powers-that-be changed it up slightly by making patient a dissident writer who was hiding from the government. He was presumed dead, so visiting a hospital would have exposed him and his family. So, of course the requisite complication required him to get an echocardiogram heart scan. Gee, if only Hank knew of a fully-stocked, private medical facility where he could perform the test in secret…
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ROYAL PAINS 2.3: The (really) Big Show

Sure, ROYAL PAINS featured its biggest guest star ever this week – the 7-foot, 485-pound Paul Wight, a.k.a. Big Show of the WWE – but I was more distracted by who wasn’t on the screen very much: Where did Divya go?

This second season of ROYAL PAINS is focusing a lot on adding big names: Henry “the Fonz” Winkler is recurring as Hank and Evan’s shady father, Eddie R., and Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden will be seen periodically as prickly Dr. Elizabeth Blair. And Christine Ebersole’s Mrs. Newberg is also on the scene a lot more lately. Last week, 24’s erstwhile Chloe, Mary Lynn Rajskub, portrayed Mrs. Newberg’s flighty daughter, Blake. Also, AS THE WORLD TURNS’ Marnie Schulenburg (Alison) appeared as Sherrie Tanner, a leather craftswoman (“I’m the only designer on the East Coast specializing in armadillo; it’s my schtick!”) who contracted Hansen’s disease – otherwise known as leprosy – from her own creations. (Get the joke? “Tanner” works with leather?) The soap trend continued this week with Florencia Lozano (ONE LIFE TO LIVE’s Tea) playing Faith, the high-strung sister/business manager of the action-movie star known as the Garbage Man (Big Show).
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ROYAL PAINS 2.1: Rx for summer fun

The problem with the inaugural season of ROYAL PAINS is that while the show is breezy and entertaining, the scripting has always been just a bit too on-the-nose. There was very little about the show that was subtle, the second-season premiere indicates that trend is continuing.

When last we saw the employers of HankMed, the concierge doctor service sweeping the Hamptons playground of the rich, Hank (Mark Feuerstein) and Evan (Paul Costanzo) had just seen their bank accounts drained by their unseen ne’er-do-well father, Eddie, and physician’s assistant Divya (Reshma Shetty) had reluctantly become engaged to Roger, the London businessman her parents arranged for her when she was a child.
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Soap Opera Weekly: Read at Joe’s 8/28/09

The first-season finale of ROYAL PAINS was a microcosm of the series as a whole — and a lot like HankMed itself: appealing, but not nearly as clever as it thinks it is.

Case in point: The installment began with Hank and Evan behaving so completely out of character that it was as if their minds had swapped bodies. Hank was obsessed with the business of HankMed, while Evan was only interested in taking Sunday off. Since when? Evan was not even worried that a check sent to a medical supply house bounced. The week’s medical case involved Alexandra Holden (ex-Suzy, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS) playing Zoe, a young woman who was experiencing hallucinations that her sister attributed to supernatural causes. Hank examined and treated her (in her backyard). She turned out to be suffering from Alice in Wonderland Syndrome brought on by an adverse reaction to cough syrup. Meanwhile, the time had finally come for Divya to put her finger where her mouth is, and get engaged.

On the good side, we got to see a lot of personal stuff. However, nothing was very original. Hank had to raise his little brother after mom died and dad walked out. The way Hank went out of his way to deliver the exposition left me expecting that their deadbeat dad would turn out to be behind the loss of the HankMed nest egg. But what was Hank talking about when he told Evan, “I’m surprised it took this long for you to let me down.” He hinted at a long history of secrets and lies that could prove to be very intriguing.

Divya’s desire to marry for love, not to fulfill her parents’ wishes, was also a far too-familiar tune. That dream sequence of her standing up for herself? Lame. I’m not sure I bought the idea of Divya knuckling under and letting Raj put a ring on her finger, but at least it ensures she will have a story next season. (Next season being summer 2010.) Another classic soap groaner came when Jill rolled up on Hank at just the right time to interpret something the wrong way. And then Hank got it wrong when he fell for the ol’ “aggressive ex-hubby pretending he’s still in his wife’s life” routine. Gee, will those two crazy kids ever get together?

At least the show dialed back the gore this week, which was a relief after last week’s grotesque chest injury. (In case you missed it, a man’s rib cage became detached inside his chest, and a crude device involving fish hooks was improvised to fix it. At least, I think that’s what happened; it was hard to see the TV after that scene caused me to vault off the couch and cling to the ceiling!) And I thought that compound-fracture of a leg a few weeks ago was bad!

Anyway, the stage was set for next season with Jill left alone after kicking Charlie out, and Hank left alone after Evan set off to confront their father, “Eddie R.” Not exactly nail-biting scenarios, and I doubt I will remember the situations next summer. But I will remember ROYAL PAINS as a pleasant warm-weather diversion.

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com