This summer, USA Network debuted an hour-long drama called Royal Pains. The show follows a former emergency room doctor in his new incarnation as a medical concierge in the Hamptons. Given the state of the economy, the show's premise might seem a bit odd, even overdue. On one hand, it would be easy to explain away the questionable timing by pointing to the long lead time needed to produce a television series- shopping an idea or a script, getting green-lit for a pilot, casting and crewing the pilot, shooting and editing the pilot, getting approval for additional episodes and, finally, pulling together everything needed to shoot a weekly show and then doing it. But aside from its sheer entertainment value and the not-so-subtle reminders that the super rich live in a different world-Boris the billionaire who keeps a live shark in the basement of his estate with the hopes of curing a genetic disease that runs in his family, for instance-the show delivers a few other messages worth hearing.
As a rule, the ultra-affluent struggle with many of the same issues facing those with less financial security, such as unexpected illness, divorce, low self-esteem, absentee parents and substance abuse. Of course, money can sometimes make the hard times less painful or enduring, but it is not a panacea.
Russ Alan Prince also reminded me that it's de rigueur to hate the rich these days-a phenomenon underscored by the downshift in conspicuous consumption and the general unwillingness among the rich to disclose details about their response to the market meltdown, even in anonymous circumstances. But it's possible they loathe themselves as much, if not more, than everyone else does and a little TLC from you can go a long way toward bridging the gap between economic strata.