Check out our full Summer Cable Preview in the current issue of Rolling Stone , on sale at newsstands now, for the lowdown on True Blood, Jersey Shore and eight more of the season’s essential shows.
Royal Pains (USA)
It’s hard to believe it took so long for somebody to come up with this perfect concept for a medical drama — Dr. Hank Lawson practices “concierge medicine,” which means he stays the fuck out of dreary hospitals. So Royal Pains is a doctor show that looks and feels like a detective show, as Hank pays discreet house calls to the rich and titled of the Hamptons. He lives in the guest cottage on some German aristocrat’s absurdly Eurotrashy estate, rolling from case to case in his Saab convertible. It’s a fantasy of the complete breakdown of the health-care system — having bombed out of the hospital scene, after an ER malpractice suit, Hank goes off the grid, selling his services as an entrepreneur. Only losers resort to the hospital, or as Hank’s patients call it, the “taco stand.”
In its second season, Royal Pains gets even wilder, as Henry Winkler turns up as Hank’s long-lost scam-artist dad. Even better, Marcia Gay Harden joins the cast as the legit surgeon in the local legit hospital, who may pose a serious threat to take Hank down. She’s brilliantly sinister, hissing threats at Hank’s girlfriend (“I see a serious math problem in our future!”) while conducting a prostate exam. It’s a scream to see Harden snap on the rubber glove and anally probe her patient, all the while talking like a Mafia don. Finally, a doctor show for people who really loathe doctors.
Whale Wars (Animal Planet)
Whale Wars is back with more blubber-loving action, as our heroes battle the Japanese whale pirates in the Pacific. It’s an unlikely hit: an Animal Planet adventure that has all the suspense and violence of a Charles Bronson movie, except it’s a documentary series about eco-warrior guerrillas who are out to torpedo the whale hunters. Paul Watson and his Sea Shepherds board the good ship Steve Irwin to roam the waves and get into more scrapes — armed with the best theme song of any Animal Planet series ever, the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Bullet With Butterfly Wings.”
The Fabulous Beekman Boys (Planet Green)
Green Queer Eye? Or a gay Green Acres? Either way, it’s hilarious — the ultimate combination of eco awareness with Bravo-esque lifestyle porn, from Discovery’s Planet Green channel. Josh and Brent are a chic gay couple from New York City who move to a farm upstate, where they become organic farmers raising pigs, goats, chickens, and a llama named Polka Dot. Their country manor is like a lavish spread from Martha Stewart Living, where (surprise!) one of them used to work. The other is a former drag queen named “Aqua Disiac,” who explains, “I was famous for having clear plastic breasts that had goldfish swimming around in them.” With help from their loveable neighbor Farmer John, they learn to do chores around the barnyard — while bottle-feeding a baby goat, Josh snickers, “Who says gays can’t raise kids?” They also do a surprising amount of fighting on camera, even when it’s about stupid stuff like whether Amish addresses appear on the GPS. But it’s funny to see them try to stay chic while they get back to the land — as Josh says sadly, “I’ve traded in high heels for barn-mucking boots.”