The USA Channel's has become one of cable's most successful networks, bringing together a roster of quirky shows that have appealed to an increasingly wider range of viewers. The network even become specific about the elements of the series, as exec Bonnie Hammer discussed in a recent Wired magazine article: moments of exterior scenes with blue skies offer levity. "Characters Welcome" remains the channel's motto, and the result has been a set of shows where strong characters remain important and - as a result - viewers have become increasingly hooked to shows like "Royal Pains", a light series that takes a look into the increasingly in-demand practice of "concierge medicine" - in other words, doctors who make themselves available to patients 24 hours a day and often go beyond the usual level of service for a retainer.
The series stars Mark Feuerstein (a funny actor who deserves his own series after a string of thankless supporting efforts) as Henry "Hank" Lawson, a doctor who is dismissed from the hospital he works at in NYC after a wealthy donor under his care passes away. Depressed, he heads with his bumbling younger brother (Paulo Costanzo, a good match against Feuerstein and really is quite believable as his brother) to a party in the Hamptons. After saving a life, he's asked to become the concierge doctor at the local resort community. He's assisted by Divya Katdare (Reshma Shetty, another great bit of casting, as she's superb trading barbs with the other leads), a young Indian woman who didn't tell her parents that she got a medical license.
Accepting the gig, he pulls together a private medical company called HankMed, and works with both those who have the money to have him at their beck and call and those who don't have the means to pay. The series also walks the line nicely between comedy and drama, as while Feuerstein and Costanzo do a terrific job delivering one-liners, the series also weaves in genuine emotional moments and drama.
The third season of the series sees the gang get back together after they headed their separate ways at the end of last season. However, the three are thrown into work again suddenly after meeting up, as they happen to be on the scene when a bus crashes into a couple of cars. Still, it takes a little while for the two brothers to find their way back into the House of Boris, as they find unexpected temporary housing at another luxury house nearby.
Unfortunately for Divya, she runs into trouble after she continues to veer away from the traditions of her parents, who grow increasingly upset after she refuses to give in to their demands for her to have an arranged marriage. The brothers also have to contend with a return appearance of their father (Henry Winkler) and their grandfather (Ed Asner, terrific) suddenly being introduced to them unexpectedly.
The series continues to succeed - and actually improve - thanks to superior writing and casting. While the lifestyle portrayed in the series could easily turn things unsympathetic, the series manages to create characters that feel genuine and three-dimensional. Shiri Appleby is an excellent example in "Rash Talk" as a young woman starting a fragrance business who fears an illness may cause disappointment to her best friend and the co-creator of their new shop. Despite the show's setting of wealth and opulence, the series doesn't emphasize it and tries to explore the humanity of the characters - Hank has to be doctor and a bit of psychologist - and their situations. It's "Scrubs" meets "Northern Exposure".
Sweet (usually calling a show "nice" means it's a little bland or cheesy, but in this case it's believable and genuine) and charming without being forceful or manipulative, "Royal Pains" continues to improve. It's one of the better shows to come along in a while.
Unfortunately, this set only includes the first 10 episodes of the season - hopefully future seasons will include the whole, entire season instead.
• Season 3/Volume 1 Episodes
31 29/Jun/11 Traffic
32 06/Jul/11 But There's A Catch
33 13/Jul/11 Rash Talk
34 20/Jul/11 The Shaw/Hank Redemption
35 27/Jul/11 A Man Called Grandpa
36 03/Aug/11 An Apple A Day
37 10/Aug/11 Ta Da For
38 17/Aug/11 Run, Hank, Run
39 24/Aug/11 Me First
40 31/Aug/11 A Little Art, A Little Science
VIDEO: The show's warm, sleek look is presented quite well with this 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. The show's blue skies look bright and vibrant, and the show's overall color palette remains warm and well-saturated. Sharpness and detail aren't outstanding, but the presentation does consistently deliver crisp, reasonably well-defined images. A few traces of pixelation and minor shimmer were spotted, but the presentation otherwise looked clean and smooth.
SOUND: The show's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation is crisp and clean. Surrounds are used mildly at times (background chatter, storm rumbles), but the majority of the presentation is dialogue-driven. Auido quality is fine, with crisp, clean dialogue and warm, full score.
EXTRAS: Deleted scenes, gag reel and commentary on "A Man Called Grandpa" with the show's exec producer and exec-producer/co-creator.
Final Thoughts: "Royal Pains" continues to grow and develop in season 3, and the writing/performances continue to be top notch. Overall, a terrific show continues to improve. The DVD set offers a fine amount of extra content and pleasing audio/video quality. Despite the disappointment of the volume structure, the set gets a highly recommended on the basis of the show itself/content.