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Robin Hood of the Rx?

June 4, 2009 By:
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Yo, bro! Mark Feuerstein (right) offers some therapeutic advice to his brother (Paul Costanzo) in "Royal Pains."
Doctor to the rich and ridiculous in the Hamptons, Hank Lawson hears naggings, not real needs, at the end of his stethoscope, even as he scopes out a new life amid the town's nouveau rich and risqué after being fired for ignoring a benefactor's braying needs at his former big-city hospital.

Of course, if that pathetically rich patient hadn't died because of Hank's not-so-benign neglect ...

But then this would be a different story, more on the lines of "Young Doctors in Love," than "Doctor, Heal Thyself," which is what "Royal Pains" plainly plays out to be: Young, good-looking, earnest doctor abandons his Rx pad for a weekend pad in the Hamptons at the behest of his brother, where Lawson's saving the life of a delicious beauty at a party puts him on par with a medical god in this polo-playing palookaville.

Take it personally, he is told -- and that's exactly what he does, becoming a personal concierge physician tending to the traumas and tantrums of the so super-rich that they think the cosmos of billions of stars refers to their own galaxy of existential excess.

Is this any way for a doctor to act? Lawson's not so sure himself, and this tug of war and wart removal conflicts with Hank's own headache of serving the ultimate good or just making a good living. Hippocratic oath or hypocritical oaf: After all, just what good is practicing in a resort where patients resort to trickery to have their pimples popped at will or deflated breast implants reconfigured in time to attend the polo cup?

HMO -- "Healing Medic On-call" -- and who better than a former TV veterinarian ("Caroline in the City") to play a doc amid the wolves in "Royal Pains" than Mark Feuerstein?

Good morning, Southampton!

The one-time star of "Good Morning, Miami" long ago left that Southern comfort of a series for more adventurous fare.

(Actually, the South rises again in the New Yorker's bio; there was quite some ballyhoo over his Broadway debut in "The Last Night of Ballyhoo," Alfred Uhry's Tony Award take on Atlanta Jewry.)

From South to Eastern Europe: Most recently, Feuerstein was irresistible in the role of a member of a Polish Jewish Resistance band of battlers in the silver screen's Holocaust-era "Defiance."

This erstwhile high school wrestler caught the Princeton University tiger by the tale -- a Shakespearean tale; he marked his stage debut as an Ivy Leaguer in "King Lear."

"Everyone was there," he says of his family. "It was like a Bar Mitzvah."

But the college scholar is no fool, even if he once studied clowning in France at the prestigious école Phillipe Gauitier. The Fulbright scholar is fully bright to play to his strengths: Nice guys who finish not last, but first in the hearts of audiences.

Look at his character Hank Lawson -- please do, avers Feuerstein, as the series premieres on June 4, at 10 p.m., on USA.

"The beauty of what they've done with my character," opines Feuerstein, "is that they've made him sort of the Robin Hood of medicine."

Complete with a Maid Marian and a Friar Tuck -- make that more of a rebbe, Evan, his brother, portrayed by Paul Costanzo -- and what you have is a Jewish doctor with prescriptions of some very fancy chicken soup for clients who may prefer to think of it as consommé of capon for the culpable.

Oh, brother -- and, yes, about his TV brother: Costanzo was originally supposed to portray Hank's best friend, Evan Waxman -- series writer "Andrew Lenchewski has a best friend by" that name -- but chalk up the recharacterization to a little TV sibling revelry.

Seeing the two actors reading together, the producers sensed, according to Feuerstein, that Paulo and he looked too much alike. The producers asked themselves: "So, how can we hire him when they both look similarly Jewish with their curly hair and their schnozzes flying; how can we hire this same look?"

Look at them now; TV brothers they became and, in real life, real brothers is what they look like.

It was a role and series Feuerstein would give his eye teeth for -- and maybe did? "I had actually known Andrew Lenchewski outside of" the show's context. "His father had pulled my wisdom teeth out 12 years earlier."

Now, Feuerstein's chomping at the script.

Hickory, dickory, docs: Where he once felt like an outsider to the Hampton high times, the native New Yorker has a new vision to deal with.

"If you've ever been at a home on the beach in Bridgehampton or Montauk or Amagansett, there's just no feeling privileged than to sit isolated by the dunes in the quiet of this fine white sand, and there's space and you can walk forever on the beach and look at these gorgeous architectural masterpieces," he says of what is popularly known as the Promised Land of luxe living.

If Moses hadn't been stuck in the mountains, surely, he would have reserved a stay right here.

"It was sort of a dream of my brother's and mine to somehow make it out there. My father's a lawyer and he made a good living," and eventually purchased a property for the family in Bridgehampton.

These days, Feuerstein may very well be the USA Channel's hot property with this unusual comic drama that at once needles and nudges.

"Royal Pains" as sugar pill for the summer?

More than that, it could evolve into a caustic shot at the nation's ailing and costly health system, served up with a juicy lollipop to salve the pain at visit's end.

Contact the writer at: [email protected] (215-832-0735).

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