ROYAL PAINS “Pilot”: St. Hank of the Hamptons

Pilots are tricky beasts. The need to introduce the characters and situations that provide the foundation for the entire show often gum up the storytelling, creating a checklist approach (“Handsome protagonist–means well and is funny. Check!”) instead of something more elegant.

Royal Pains is not the pilot to break this pattern. While the show’s premise is established with relative economy, the characters have little dimension or shading. The finacee who dumps Hank when he falls on hard times? We know she’s not good enough for him because she states in her three minutes of screentime that she wanted to spend their money on fancy wedding paraphenalia rather than on Hank’s legal bills. Hank’s brother is a good-time boy who takes advantange of the moment. The Hamptonites Hank treats are self-centered and spoiled. Lather, rinse, repeat.

On the other side of the coin, Hank is good but no less one-dimensional. Hank knows medicine better than anyone! Hank would never accept money for practicing medicine! (Until the end of the episode.) Hank is honest! Hank would love to serve as a surrogate father to a poor little rich boy! He’s clearly meant to be with the Hamptons’ hospital administrator, as she is good. She is so good that she knows Hank is right. Because he is Hank!

Maybe Royal Pains‘ aches and pains will be limited to the pilot–as predicted, Mark Feuerstein is adorable, and while Paulo Costanzo gets little to do but be a rascal as Hank’s brother, he’s a charming rascal indeed. The musical choices are less than fresh (really, if songs have been featured on iTouch and Target commercials, they’re not going to serve very well to set a scene), and some of the more melodramatic lines are clunkers (“Why didn’t you tell me you’re a hemophiliac?!?” set me to giggling when I wasn’t supposed to be). But the banter between the brothers is snappy, and the main characters are at least charming, so perhaps Royal Pains is worth a second opinion.

Summer Premieres Abound on Thursday Night

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New summer TV is busting out all over! If you’re like me and are waiting out the audition process on So You Think You Can Dance (why does the producer manipulation in the audition rounds work so much better on American Idol than on SYTYCD? How can they possibly think I want to see the entirely constructed tension of putting the adorable Kasprzak brothers on the stage together to hear about the last slot?), there’s still plenty of new TV for you tonight. USA leads the pack with a brand new season of Burn Notice, which presumably finds Michael out of the ocean and on the run. More Bruce Campbell, please! They follow the Burn Notice season premiere with the bow of new Mark Feuerstein medical dramedy Royal Pains. To be honest, I’m not sure I care about the cuts, bruises, and face lifts of the rich and famous Hamptons residents who need house calls, but I love me some Mark Feuerstein (Cliff Calley! ), so I guess I’m there (also: bonus Campbell Scott!). Burn Notice and Royal Pains might be a good match–good guys who lose their good lives and try to reconstruct new ones with help from wacky friends and family? Hmmm. Maybe I just favor the Campbells.

If you just can’t get enough medical drama, NBC also debuts The Listener, about a psychic paramedic (Craig Olejnik, sporting unfortunate hair). Yep. The lead character referring to his psychic ability as God setting him up with free cable is kind of cute, I suppose. On the other hand, I’m not sure I’m that impressed with paramedics who see a major car accident out their window and are surprised by it, as psychic ability apparently drowns out huge noises. The latest in an increasingly long line of Canadian imports, The Listener‘s cast isn’t as instantly interesting as Mark Feuerstein (few are!), so we’ll be waiting for Colm Feore to show up. Unless we’ve given up and are watching the early showing of The USA Network Campbell Evening instead. Burn Notice and Royal Pains on USA Network at 9pm and 10pm Eastern and Pacific, respectively, and a double dose of The Listener on NBC at the same times.