June 18th, 2009
Ah, the ol’ second episode switcheroo. It happens more than you’d expect, really, for some pretty obvious reasons: when a show is in its infancy and needs to make sure that it keeps viewers’ attention, that second episode is extremely important. “There Will Be Food” wasn’t necessarily a far better representation of what the show will do, but the continuity of Tucker, who is without question the show’s most likeable Hamptonite, was the smart decision in terms of convincing us that the rich won’t be too heavily dehumanized or even necessarily fall into the same one and done patient formula of other procedural medicine shows.
“Strategic Planning” is pretty much what I expected the show to be, and in some ways what I was hoping it wouldn’t become, but in the end it’s all pretty inoffensive. By recreating the environment in which an episode of House is capable of taking place, and by essentially playing out an episode of House in that environment, the show isn’t doing itself any favours in the originality department. Combine with a lifeless Evan storyline, and some issues of continuity on the Jill/Hank front, and the hold on airing the episode makes a lot of sense. That being said, though, the episode also does a lot to explain how Hank’s business is working, and why Boris would be willing to rent out his guest house to a concierge doctor, which contributes enough to the show’s universe to forgive this well-acted, well-intentioned but ultimately well-treaded territory.
“There Will Be Food”
June 11th, 2009
Ah, the ol’ sophomore check-in. Entering its second week, I still wasn’t entirely on board with Royal Pains, as its pilot was clumsily competent in a way that seemed as if it would set up an interesting show but didn’t yet give an indication (outside of our ability to extrapolate from its setup) of how that show might operate.
It’s really a question of pacing more than anything else, along with how it will handle its recurring elements intermingled with new “cases.” The tension from Hank’s life is pretty much gone at this point; he has a place to live and a job to do, and that lack of stress allows him to sort of float along both noble and romantic paths in “There Will Be Food,” an episode certainly devoid of any blood or any serious ailments. This isn’t surprising, as this is a procedural series without murders or anything of that nature, but there will be a point when the “Robin Hood” of the Hampton’s is going to have to face something legitimately threatening.
Overall, though, it was a solid second outing. I have some concerns over the use of romance, but considering how much I prefer it to some of the show’s other options I’m ultimately content, if not wholly satisfied, with the show’s direction.
June 4th, 2009
You know, pilots are kind of a pain.
They’re a necessary evil: they exist in order to give us an understanding of how a show is going to work, which is an important thing to sell a network and potential viewers on before they commit to ordering, or watching, more episodes. But the result is often that a lot of character and plot development that should be given time to unfold naturally is checked off at a blistering pace. It’s possible to make a great pilot, but those people are both few and far between and definitely not working behind the scenes at USA Network’s Royal Pains.
As a critic, it’s hard to really confront a pilot as obnoxiously contrived as this one, because you run into a problem: considering that it’s our role to judge a show based on its potential, and considering that the contrivances are more pilot shorthand than inherent to the show’s formula, you can’t spend too much time complaining about something that is par for the course. And while Burn Notice has given us some fairly high expectations about what a USA Network “procedural” is capable of being, this show does not appear to have similar aspirations, and it’s not really fair to judge it as if it does.
So taking into account its contrivances, and its ham-fisted parallels, and its tendency to rush its way through storylines that should probably be given a bit more time, Royal Pains managed to do enough to convince me that as a piece of escapist summer entertainment the show might not be such a pain after all.