‘Royal’ Sign-Off for USA Staple

Doc drama bridged blue-sky era to a darker one

Royal Pains wraps up its eighth, and final, season on USA Network July 6. The series, about a doctor banished from his New York City post who reboots his practice, and himself, in Long Island’s posh Hamptons, was one of the few to span from USA’s self-dubbed “blue sky” programming era to the modern one. Yet there’s still common DNA between USA original series now and then: Quirky main characters trying to do right in their own unique way.

“Like Monk, like Mr. Robot, [main character] Hank has a skill set and is trying to use it to make the world a better place,” said Jeff Wachtel, chief content officer, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, and president, Universal Cable Productions & Wilshire Studios. “Hank comes from a healthier place (than detective Adrian Monk), but he has his own demons to exercise.”

Royal Pains is produced by Universal Cable Productions, as is Mr. Robot, new drama Shooter and several other series. (Mr. Robot and Suits have their season premieres July 13.) Richard Rothstein, executive VP, current programing, UCP, describes the common “lineage” among USA’s more popular offerings over the years. “They’re about second chances. The characters try to reboot their lives in one way or another,” he said.

Shot in New York with a substantial cast, Royal Pains has been a significantly more expensive show than a typical USA offering, said Wachtel, as the network set out to “create a different kind of asset” that could, among other things, play well overseas. “We spent a lot more on that show than we ever did during the blue sky chapter of our life,” he said.

The series hit 100 episodes last month, joining other USA series including Monk (125) and Psych (121). Wachtel acknowledges 100 is less of a goal now, with Hulu, Netflix and Amazon involved with off-network acquisitions but said he was nonetheless “ecstatic” to see it hit a hundred. Keys to its longevity, he said, are the right mix of drama and comedy, and characters with a lot of layers, not just “primary colors.”

Wachtel offers up an expansive batch of adjectives when describing seeing Royal Pains sign off. “It gives me a great, warm, wonderful, happy feeling to watch the sun set on the final chapter,” he said.