That’s what I told myself in the first five minutes, with the cliché establishing shots and overly finished cinematography. (Seriously, what is this, a Chanel ad spread in Vogue or a one-hour TV drama?).
I repeated it as the writing got incredibly expositional, with one character even saying, “I’m providing illegal drugs to a top neurosurgeon,” even though I’d figured that out by the fact that; (a) he’d already handed over the drug, and (b) it was already established the other guy was a neurosurgeon.
I said it again with the clumsy costume choices. The overly used “broken mirror” metaphor (we get it dude. The character has a “fractured” personality. That shot was interesting when the first film was made and then it stopped being cool after that). The stereotypically pretty and boring actress casting choices.
I’ll say it again. It’s a pilot. Be patient.
Mid-winter premieres are always a risk: they can be absolute crap or they can be gold. Do No Harm, NBC’s newest offering for Thursdays at 10pm is an excellent example of both of these options. If the pilot is any indication, we’re in for a rocky road of a season; if it’s not canceled within the first three episodes.
A modern take on the Doctor Jekyll-Mr. Hyde story, the doctor-mister-monster this time is an actual doctor (a neurosurgeon in fact) named James Cole (an excellent Steven Pasquale). Dr. Cole is a celebrated neurosurgeon in a large Philadelphia hospital that’s so clean and glossy, it looks more like a mall than a place where sick people bleed, throw up and do other disgusting things. Dr. Cole’s excellence in surgery and charismatic good looks earns him the jealousy of snarky colleague Dr. Jordan, the admiration of his boss (I have no idea what the character’s name is because I was too busy saying hey! Mrs. Cosby/Phylicia Rashad!) and the flirtation of a co-worker, whip thin, brown-haired Dr. Lena Solis.
When we meet Dr. Cole, he wakes up and a countdown on his watch begins. There’s a shot of what look like horse tranquilizers all over the bedside table as he bounces up and starts rushing through his day.
As Dr. Cole zooms around like a hot hamster with ADHD, we learn he’s great at what he does, he cares about his patients, he gets illegal meds from the hospital pharmacy that knock him out every night, provided by friend and brilliant toxicologist Reuben (Lin Manual Manual—da heeeeights!) who KNOWS HIS SECRET. Dr. Cole then makes a stop off at group therapy, where he missed the group part of therapy and just talks to the irate therapist (John Carroll Lynch, in a surprising turn playing a non serial killer role). We learn that Dr. Cole has dissociative personality disorder. Hmmm. Wonder what that fancy watch is counting down to, hmmm?
Blah, blah, blah if you know the Robert Louis Stevenson story, you could probably have written the rest of this pilot and yes, it probably would have been better if you had. Dr. Cole knocks himself out every night with his illegal drugs to prevent evil twin self Ian Price from doing evil things. But gueeess what? The medicine doesn’t work anymore! Chaos ensues.
Fast forward to evil Ian strutting around being mean and doing mean things. He messes things up with pretty Lena, where it’s hinted he rapes her, but turns out he just laughed at her and hurt her feelings. He has an orgy. He trashes a hotel room. He dresses in black and basically acts like an egotistical, short tempered actor who didn’t get the right amount of green M&Ms in his trailer.
I give credit to Steven Pasqual for doing the best he can with the little he is given in the script. But again, as he was in that Lifetime romantic comedy with Lucy Liu a few years back, he can’t quite outshine the straight out of a Campbell’s watery soup can material he’s given. Much wasted time is spent with him having two patient of the week storylines; one a father with a damaged brain and another on an abused housewife. Does Jason set up the husband of the abused housewife to have the crap kicked out of him by Ian? Of course. Does he almost but not quite kill a patient with Ian and is saved via a glucose check machine that was given SO MUCH SET-UP we were already tired of it when it was used in its “twist?” Yup. Is there a mysterious, beautiful woman who Jason has to warn that “he” is back (via a super secret cell phone kept in a safe)? Uh-uh. Olivia. His ex. She has blond hair, weird blue eyes and a jaw so bony, I just wanted to throw a hamburger at the screen every time I saw her. Aaaand, as we learn at the end, she’s the mother of a small boy child…named Cole. Da da daaaaah.
It could have been worse. And yes, I’m going to get tired of all the hospital storylines very soon. And yes, I saw the jealous co-worker set to bring the hero down a mile away. And yes, I don’t care about either of the female leads.
Still, I’ll stick with it and see if Steven Pasqual achieves any of the level of greatness that James Nesbitt did in a similar British show named Jekyll. Sigh. I still marvel at that masterpiece of (mostly) good writing and fantastic acting. I have no idea how Nesbitt did it, but his portrayals of Jekyll and Hyde were completely different and equally genius. Plus, that show had Sophie from Leverage in it as well! And Steven Moffat wrote it, which meant that at least the dialogue had some snap. Did it also have some weird, not needed, overly “ah-hah!” dramatic plot twists? Of course. But it’s Steven Moffat, so you expect that.
Yes, yes, I know, back to Do No Harm, even though I don’t want to [insert sulky expression here]. I confess, I had high hopes for this show. Interesting concept, decent cast, great lead (Pasqual has charm and good looks to spare, plus he was excellent in Rescue Me). Yet in the pilot, it all added up to….yeeeech. Methinks the network got ahold of this one and polluted its original golden concept into some cloudy, cheap, tarnished brass.
Still, like I said, I’ll stick with it. And like I said, it’s just the pilot. You can forgive much of a pilot. You can. Seriously, you can.
The second episode, however, better be damn good or next week I may have to have my own Hyde moment involving a hammer, my computer and a strongly worded email to NBC explaining to them why their shows suck and their network is failing. What’s the hammer for? Oh. To put up more bookshelves so I can turn, in my moment of quality drama need, to my failsafe: a good, juicy Harry Dresden novel.