Watching The Wheels

Friday, August 7, 2009

Royal Pains: A TV Show Completely Without Pain

I have to admit I expected to hate this show. I really did. And I rarely establish expectations about anything coming out of Hollywood. I thought the commercials for the opening were vacuous, but then look who we’re dealing with: Hollywood inbreeds. Originality is a pestilence to be wiped out; remake is the order of the day. I mean, this is the town where if you don’t have “The Rise of..” in your title, you’re out of step.

But, make no mistake; I watched the opening show out of boredom, and online. I had nothing else to do.

I was captivated.

Mark Feuerstein’s quiet intensity is mesmerizing as Hank Lawson, the doctor fired for saving the life of a street kid and, consequently, taking attention from a dying contributor to the hospital. He is the rock of the show and is entirely believable. He wears his conscience on his sleeve and makes no apologies for it. He almost makes you believe there are actual people like that in the world.


Paolo Costanzo is magnetic and fantastic as the CPA brother, Evan Lawson. Now, this could have been a part played so irritatingly that one would contemplate purchasing a firearm. The restraint Costanzo shows in this role is nothing less than astounding, because this role could have just been so abrasive as to cause a change of channel. And, let’s face it, he’s just plain funny. His scenes with kids, particularly in the “No Man is an Island” episode, are touching, yet not so much as to be saccharin.

The supporting cast are first rate for a show that could have been done completely wrong. The guest stars are appropriately eccentric – I am particularly fond of the episodes featuring the character Tucker Bryant. I say this because I used to work with the kids of the wealthy in a profoundly warped school district in Brighton, which is a suburb of Rochester, NY. As a counselor, I was told unequivocally that the teachers didn’t care about the kids’ issues, only their grades. Yet, I experienced a talented young man whose mother was going to send him to a group home because she was working on her law degree and didn’t like the way he dressed. One day, a young boy walked into school and dropped dead of an aneurism. I am particularly touched by the story of two students – boyfriend and girlfriend – who were on the railroad tracks. Her foot got stuck in the tracks as a train was coming. The boy tried to free her, and stayed with her, trying to free her as they were both killed by the train.

I wonder how their grades were.

On a number of levels this show resonates with me. Ignore the puerile, vacant review of this show that appears on Watch this show. Get into the characters. And rejoice in the fact that there can be a television show in this day and age that does not foretell doom, burdened with the existential angst of a life that is meaningless. This show is destined to be a classic.

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