“The Honeymoon’s Over”
July 30th, 2009
There are moments when watching a summer show that you start to realize just how much you’ve been treating it as a summer show, and at the start of tonight’s episode of Royal Pains I had one of those moments. As Jill and Hank seemed to be at some sort of relationship crossroads, I realized something: I have no idea why. I don’t even think I care to know why. Something apparently happened in last week’s episode that made Jill weary of any kind of actual relationship – I remember something about a summer crush, and concerns over Hank leaving, but I didn’t think things were quite as cold as they seemed to be.
And really, this is the problem with a show like Royal Pains where the conflict in each individual episode is contained, meaning that any conflicts needs to come from the same people each and every week. For Burn Notice (which I haven’t watched yet, but might blog about to get back in the swing of things), this is achieved through a single storyline that while occasionally repetitive is quite focused on one idea and executed as such. With Royal Pains, however, it seems like they want to just keep pulling out the Jill/Hank relationship drama card, and to be honest I don’t think it’s working for me. I don’t find they have a terrible amount of chemistry, and it just isn’t something that can legitimately sustain my interest for too long.
So, as we bounce from machination to machination, I’m looking for Royal Pains to really find its footing outside of its weekly medical stories, which quite strangely for a procedural have kind of been its strong point to this point in its first season – while I’m pleased the show has received a second season, I’m less pleased with the fact that it could mean two seasons of this less than wonderful relationship.
There have been various romantic entanglements that have faced some considerable roadblocks in the past, but the only way they really work is if people are legitimately kept apart. Say what you will about Chuck and Sarah on Chuck, or Luke and Lorelai on Gilmore Girls, or even Michael and Fiona on Burn Notice, in each instance there was something standing in the way of their relationship that made sense for them to be apart (Luke and Lorelai had less barriers, but it was unrequited love at its finest until things went sour). The worst thing Gilmore Girls did was tease Luke and Lorelai getting together before needlessly complicating things in the sixth season finale, ripping out the heart of the show and never quite recovering from it. If you have a relationship built on barriers and complications, you need to let those complications emerge organically in the characters themselves.
However, here, Jill and Hank literally got thrown together. They meet at a party, and then miraculously she is in a position where Hank needs to see her on a regular basis. They feel a sort of connection, and almost immediately they’re making out at sunset, and having a legitimate relationship. She has concerns over her image, but she decides to make out with him in public anyways. It all happened so quickly, though, that we’re eight episodes in and already we’re circling around to the “we can’t be together” phase again, and are about to meet the ex-boyfriend Charlie considering that text message. That’s a lot of back and forth for a relationship that doesn’t have the chemistry of any of the above listed, and that for me isn’t really an interesting part of this show.
So when they seem to want to spend a lot of time on it, and when a signed copy of a children’s book is able to overcome some pretty huge reservations, it just seems like it’s being micromanaged to the point of feeling devoid of human emotions. I don’t feel like Hank is winning her back because he particularly likes her, I think he’s winning her back because he has to so that the storyline can continue. And even then, I don’t find Jill’s constant evokation of Charlie as a slippery slope argument for why her relationship with Hank won’t work all that compelling, as it shows she is incapable of critical analysis of her own life and demeans her supposed intelligence to be in her position. It’s a relationship that continually does nothing for me, and yet is being asked to do quite a bit in the context of the show.
The rest of the episode, I felt, was pretty solid. I enjoy Lee Tergesen’s work a great deal, and although I thought the “illustrator under deadline” story was a bit ridiculous (what publisher wouldn’t give an extension for a guy who just had a serious heart episode? Especially an apparently successful/well-known one?) I think that the story worked because it had some legitimate diagnostic twists and I felt connected to the fate of the character. Hank is often best with patients who emerge as characters in their own right as opposed to Hamptons stereotypes, and I thought this was a good example of someone who felt very down to earth, and whose efforts to live a clean lifestyle and support his family became a detriment to his health in an almost tragic fashion. One thing that sets the show apart from House is the idea that these people keep living their lives, not confined to a hospital, and this house call felt that much more unpredictable (if perhaps a bit negligent on Hank to have not foreseen those complications and explained things more carefully) as a result.
Speaking of House, I did find it somewhat clever to have Peter Jacobson on a show that so clearly apes House’s style, especially in a storyline that discussed Divya’s bedside manner and had Jacobson’s character legitimately confused about how diagnostics work. I felt like it wrapped up without much mystery, and that it was missing a scene where Divya calls her “fiance,” but it was a harmless little story that even without much mystery did some decent character work and had the irony of Jacobson’s appearance going for it.
Like I said above, Royal Pains officially got a second season this week, and I’m happy for it: it gives the show a chance to grow, and really plan things out. However, while they may have plenty of case ideas, they need to better build the show around them, and I hope they keep their minds open to new ways to expand this universe other than repeating the same relationship troubles over and over again.
- Evan has been growing on me a bit, but he took a few steps back here: he’s a bit too much of a cartoon with his surveys and his tagalongs, and his PowerPoint presentations. I want to see Evan be a bit more than a punch line.
- That being said, I much preferred the running gag of never seeing his PowerPoint (and the hiccuping A/V guy) than I did the relationship stuff – if the show stuck to comedy in those bits, as well as showing a bit more of the behind the scenes of HankMed, I think it’d be well off.