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Completely pain-free

USA’s new medical drama is a low-impact summer treat

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You know it’s summer because USA is debuting another breezy, rather formulaic new drama that will be fun to watch but probably not occupy a whole lot of your brain power in the process. Royal Pains (USA, Thursdays, 10 p.m.), groaningly pun-tastic title aside, is another solid addition to the channel’s burgeoning original-programming lineup, and should provide a nice companion to the spy drama Burn Notice, the third season of which will be airing directly ahead of it. Like Burn Notice, Pains is set in a sunny paradise for the rich, and features a main character who’s sarcastic, emotionally damaged and a serious chick magnet. In what qualifies as genius in the realm of summer programming, Pains takes place entirely during the summer, since its Hamptons setting only qualifies as a vacation enclave for the wealthy during the warm months.

Into the mega-exclusive club of vacationing billionaires comes disgraced New York City doctor Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein), fired from his job as the head of a high-profile emergency room and trauma center after a judgment call that led to the death of an influential donor. Hank arrives in the Hamptons with his accountant brother Evan (Paulo Costanzo, a little shticky) for what he expects to be a weekend vacation to take his mind off his unemployment, mounting debt and departed fiancée. But when he steps in to help a poisoned girl at a swank party, Hank becomes the talk of the Hamptons and inadvertently finds himself a new career as a so-called concierge doctor, a private medical practitioner on call to the rich for their every illness, injury and plastic-surgery mishap.

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Royal Pains
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USA: Royal Pains

Hank spends a little too much of the extra-long pilot protesting the inevitable, as seemingly everyone in the Hamptons takes it as a foregone conclusion that he’ll accept his new role (of course, he will). But there are pleasures in the coalescing of the supporting cast, which also includes Reshma Shetty as Hank’s hypercompetent assistant, who applies for the job before Hank even knows it exists, and Jill Flint as the head of the local hospital, much derided by Hank’s wealthy clients. Of course Hank and Flint’s Jill engage in playful banter that leads to flirtation, although he’s also being pursued by the socialite whose life he saved. Campbell Scott (as a rich benefactor for Hank) and Christine Ebersole (as a boozy, demanding aging sexpot) also make welcome appearances in what promise to become recurring roles.

USA’s crime-procedural originals (including Psych, Monk and Law & Order: Criminal Intent) tend to favor self-contained plots over ongoing storylines, but like Burn Notice, Pains looks like it will strike a balance between case-of-the-week scenarios and long-running subplots, with a number of characters from the pilot set to make return appearances. Hank’s relationships with these various people are fairly easy to chart from the outset, but creators Andrew Lenchewski and John P. Rogers give them enough depth that it’s easy to see the appeal of watching those dynamics unfold.

Feuerstein makes for a charming, easygoing protagonist, and the setting, like Burn Notice’s Miami, allows for plenty of images of scantily clad pretty people. Pains is never going to feature ER-style heart-stopping medical drama, but at this point it doesn’t look like it’s going to rely on Grey’s Anatomy-type melodrama either. Instead it floats along affably like a summer in the Hamptons, a perfectly suitable companion for the nice weather.

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