“It’s Like Jamais Vu All Over Again”
August 6th, 2009
Alan Sepinwall has often talked about how, with TBS’ My Boys, the season finale cliffhangers are almost always of a nature where he as a critic doesn’t actually care about them. TBS asks critics not to talk about the result of the latest love triangle, or such trifling things, whereas Alan (and myself) watch the show for the sense of camaraderie, the sharp dialogue, etc.
I feel very much the same way about Royal Pains, a show that in its first half season has made quite a ratings splash but has failed to really connect with me on an individual level. It isn’t that the show is by any means bad, but rather that there is nothing standing out for me. I was going to start this review by complaining that they, like My Boys, chose one of the least interesting parts of the show on which to hang their hat when it came time to focus on a “Cliffhanger” (loose definition, I assure you), but then I realized something: I don’t know if there’s actually an interesting part.
I don’t think that’s a condemnation of the show, but it is the kind of thing which keeps an episode like “It’s Like Jamais Vu All Over Again” from feeling all that, well, interesting. It’s not that the case itself is that poorly drawn, or that the various interpersonal elements weren’t up to par. Instead, it is simply an example of a show where the focus seems to be on the element of the show, the love triangles and the like, that really does absolutely nothing for me, leaving me to wonder if the rest of the show will ever remain as in focus as I’d like it to.
Only time, and the new few weeks, will tell.
I really don’t have too much to say about this one, as it was really the least-climactic episode you can possibly imagine. The case itself was clearly identified as a case the moment we opened with the House-esque “blurred vision, that looks like a symptom,” the drug-related side of things was pretty clearly a bunch of red herrings upon being investigated, and because she didn’t seem to be in any immediate danger it wasn’t as if I was on the edge of my seat to know what precisely was wrong with her – the show isn’t going to kill a little girl, so the suspense was nonexistent. The efforts to connect the case to Hank’s own Daddy issues was never entirely clear (it’s not like the rest of the episode really touched on that subject), so outside of some foreshadowing for the Season 1 finale (you mark my words) it was all a bit simple.
Less simple, of course, was Divya finally “coming out” as a Physician’s assistant to her parents, only to replace that deception with another one entirely. The show is so clearly leading to a point where Evan’s bumbling efforts to assist her are going to endear him to her, complicating her engagement and sending her new lie (about still planning on going to London to be with Raj) into another spiral, that it’s predictable beyond the point of necessarily being enjoyable. I was talking about how Burn Notice’s summer finale was predictable in its own way, but it was only predictable in what needed to be accomplished as opposed to how it was accomplished. Royal Pains really doesn’t seem interested in engaging with the latter point here, just going through the motions in a way that isn’t unpleasant (Divya’s storyline was my favourite part of the episode) but isn’t really designed to blow me away either.
And yes, as noted above, the show insists on continuing with the Jank situation, as Jill and Hank remain in the midst of a complicated relationship just as her husband Charlie returns, takes up the Emergency Room spot so conveniently left by the doctor who got drunk earlier in the episode, and complicates everything. There was even the awkward Meet Cute between Hank and Charlie before they knew who each other were, and it was all precious to the point of being far too contrived. I just don’t feel that I really care: it’s clear the show wants these two kids together, but to introduce such a blatant complication just isn’t enough to tide me over. It’s a pretty boring and cliche storyline, so I react accordingly.
Really, the most interesting thing the season had going for it was Boris, who last we heard was considering a shark blood transfusion in an effort to stave off some sort of life-threatening illness. That’s the kind of thing that really makes me interested in this show, the sense that these clients are unique to this show. Instead, here they focused on a pretty mundane client (framed entirely as a medical mystery as opposed to a medical situation), and more importantly it didn’t feel like something that defined Hank as either a Concierge Doctor or a Hamptons Doctor. And while Mark Feuerstein remains a strong presence in the role, I don’t think we’ve spent enough time with Hank just yet to pretend as if his own life is enough to keep the show afloat.
Going into the end of the season, I wanted to see more episodes that could potentially offer unique scenarios. Hank’s little Home Depot medicine was clever, and his way of cracking the doctor’s elbow into place was entertaining, but I want to see how far the show can push that without the bounds of reality. I also want to see them return to more clients (Bring back Tucker/Libby, damnit), and to really try to populate this world, as opposed to pretending that these are the only people inside of it. For a finale, this one didn’t really change much of anything in any areas I care about, so I’ll be looking for a bit more of that in the weeks ahead and into the second season.
- Is it just me, or is this going to be a lot more awkward than Burn Notice as a winter show (presuming that it comes back alongside Burn Notice in January)? I guess the logic is that it warms up the colder months and fits right in during the warmer ones, but it’s still going to be weird to see a show essentially about a working vacation in the context of January.
- I really liked the Evan/Divya stuff as a whole, but I thought Evan breaking the news to her parents was a bit much, and continues to operate under the assumption that Evan being awkward and incapable of social interaction is funny. Him being scared of horses, however? Quite humorous for me by comparison. I am apparently both difficult and easy to please.
- Yeah, in my exhaustion last night I erroneously assumed that this was actually, like Burn Notice, a finale – not having their finales together seemed kind of strange to me, but alas. We get three more episodes of Royal Pains this summer before the show comes back for a second season at an undetermined date. Thanks to everyone for the heads up.