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Ellen Gray: 2 new shows, 1 season opener are pleasant diversions

BURN NOTICE. 9 tonight, USA. ROYAL PAINS. 10 tonight, USA. THE LISTENER. 9 tonight, Channel 10. SUMMERTIME, AND the watching is easy.

Mark Feuerstein is Dr. Hank Lawson and Reshma Setty plays Divya in "The Royal Pains."
Mark Feuerstein is Dr. Hank Lawson and Reshma Setty plays Divya in "The Royal Pains."Read more

BURN NOTICE. 9 tonight, USA.

ROYAL PAINS. 10 tonight, USA.

THE LISTENER. 9 tonight, Channel 10.

SUMMERTIME, AND the watching is easy.

At least, that is, if you stay away from NBC's "I'm a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here," whose reruns may someday find their way onto a menu of enhanced interrogation techniques.

Not everything that comes out of NBC Universal is actually aimed at searing your eyes and ears, however, and tonight brings two relatively painless new scripted shows, one on NBC and the other on USA, as well as the return of USA's quirky spy show "Burn Notice."

Mark Feuerstein ("In Her Shoes") is one of those pleasantly generic actors who has a way of making not-very-good shows - "Good Morning, Miami," anyone? - seem, if not good, at least moderately plausible.

That's the function he's serving in "Royal Pains," a USA dramedy about a doctor to the rich and infamous that's set in the sunny Hamptons.

And because not even Feuerstein could have made a sympathetic character out of a guy whose job includes helping rich people escape the consequences of their bad choices, his character, Hank Lawson, is cast as a reluctant outsider.

Blacklisted all over New York after he refuses to stop treating a playground hoops player in cardiac arrest in order to tend to the seemingly less-pressing needs of a stricken hospital VIP, Hank, who would seem to be the most talented young doctor of his generation, is staring at utter ruin when his social-climbing brother Evan (Paulo Costanzo) drags him off to the beach for a few days.

No, I didn't believe a word of any of this, either, but once you've seen the kind of medical miracles Hank can work with stuff you probably have lying around your house, you'll either have suspended all disbelief or be wondering why we're still paying so much for health care.

Hank's the "MacGyver" of medicos, a point that's actually made in the show, lest we miss so obvious a comparison.

Campbell Scott pops up as Boris, a mysterious figure with an aura of aging Eurotrash, after Hank and Evan crash a party where Hank ends up saving a guest's life after the host's doctor nearly kills her.

When Hank's not building a heart-bypass machine out of a couple of straws and some duct tape - OK, maybe that's next week - he's fending off beautiful women because, you know, it wouldn't be right to exploit his medical training for sex.

Beach towns have a way of flat-lining in the winter, but this isn't winter, and "Royal Pains," with a sunny star and even sunnier setting, might be just what the doctor ordered for those who can't take one more minute of pseudo-celebrity antics.

Over on NBC, where those antics will apparently continue until Dick Cheney decides they're not working anymore, there's a much heavier scripted show premiering, courtesy of our neighbors to the north.

Like CBS' "Flashpoint," NBC's "The Listener," which will premiere with two back-to-back episodes, isn't just filmed in Canada - it's set there, with Craig Olejnik starring as Toby Logan, a telepathic paramedic in Toronto.

Given the number of psychic detectives already working in television, you might think the medical angle was a nice twist, if Toby could only remember he's in health care, not law enforcement.

Instead, his ability to read the thoughts of others leads him into well-marked territory as he ends up working to solve crimes the police may not even know have been committed.

The writers, while showing a certain lack of imagination in feeding Toby the voices of passers-by - no, it's unlikely that woman who passes you on the street, guys, is thinking what they think she's thinking - have at least invested their lead with a mildly intriguing backstory.

Colm Feore ("24") plays a sympathetic mentor to the reluctant telepath, whose first job is to learn to see his ability as a gift, not a curse. But given the quality of most of the thoughts he's hearing, he'd better off with earplugs.

As male leads go, neither Feuerstein nor Olejnik is as intriguing as Jeffrey Donovan, whose slightly off-center energy has helped make "Burn Notice" a not-so-guilty pleasure for many people.

I can't say I stuck with it for more than a few episodes, but since tonight's Season 3 opener finds Donovan's Michael Westen in pretty much the same predicament in which he started, catching up was easy.

Like "Royal Pains'" Hank, Michael's been blacklisted, but from a more dangerous job. A spy without portfolio, he's dealing with a gun-slinging ex-girlfriend named Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar), one tough mother (Sharon Gless) and people who seem to want him dead.

Not sure "Burn Notice" requires as much narration as Donovan provides - something made obvious in the rough-cut version I saw where someone else was filling in - but as summer series go, it's worth slathering on the sunscreen for. *

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