Episode 1.01 Writer: David Schulner Director: Michael Mayer
THE ONE WHERE Successful neurosurgeon Jason Cole has kept his dark side – Ian Price – under control for five years using drugs. But now his body has become immune to the drugs and Price is free to wreak havoc once more.
VERDICT Often, people accuse SFX of being overly tough on pilots. We should give them the benefit of the doubt. Let the shows find their feet. Concentrate on the potential and not accentuate the negative.
Yeah, well, you try watching the pilot for Do No Harm and remaining positive. Sorry folks. You can be as tree-huggingly liberal as you want going in, but by the end of this small screen shoe-scrape we reckon you’ll be a psycho lumberjack.
Do No Harm, a medical drama with a Jekyll And Hyde twist, should come with a health warning. This pilot is one of the worst we’ve seen in a long, long time, and while there are flashes of potential, you just know that its main potential is to get even worse; certainly the “Next Time” trailer hints as much.
This is an epic fail on so many levels, but the main problem is the basic set-up. As the elements of the plot are revealed to you with the subtlety of an ITV talent show, you feel like your brain has become stuck on, “Huh?” Sure, telefantasy shows often rely on the audience being able to suspend its disbelief. With Do No Harm you have to encase your disbelief in amber, then lock it inside a lead-lined box and stick it on a rocket aimed at a black hole. And even then you’ll still go, “Huh?”
Huh?! 1) Right, so Jason is “successful” neurosurgeon who cannot work nights because he has to knock himself out between 8.25pm and 8.25am (that’s when Ian emerges). How many “successful” neurosurgeons – or surgeons of any sort – can refuse to work at night? It might be possible on a theoretical level, but with patient complications, unforeseen emergencies, operations that prove more complicated (and lengthy) than expected, hospital admin (and meetings)… any surgeon who refused to make himself available at night would soon piss off his colleagues and become a liability. Even if Jason is THE GREATEST NEUROSURGEON THAT EVER LIVED (and of course, as the star of a US medical show, we’re shown he’s some kind of maverick genius who cures the incurable with a few swipes of a scalpel and a grin) who possibly could demand such respect, how could he have ever reached that level without putting in some overtime? He’d be loathed by his colleagues and dismissed as unreliable by his superiors. Hell, we’re even told he was sacked from his previous job. That figures. Being the bright-eyed boy in his new job certainly doesn’t.
Huh?! 2) He goes to therapy. Why? What Earthly good will that do him? A group hug is hardly going to help his condition. Presumably he would have seen a shrink years ago, to work out if he’s bonkers or actually afflicted with something real. He seems pretty convinced that Ian is real; so what are the therapy sessions for? Handy exposition potential?
Huh?! 3) Ian’s been locked away (by the drugs) for five years, and yet when he’s released again, he doesn’t want revenge? He just want some hedonistic sex? One of the main problems with the pilot is that Ian is granted a real character. He’s just a bit of an idiot who likes doing bad thing.
Huh?! 4) Jason’s lived with this affliction for years and yet he goes to a party, starts chatting to a pretty doctor and forgets he’s about to change into Ian until his reminder alarm goes off? Yeah, right. He’s be as paranoid as hell about timekeeping.
Huh?! 5) Jason is seemingly pathologically scared of what Ian might do, and yet when it’s handy for him, he merrily lets himself change into Ian, so his evil half can kick the crap out of a wife beater? Okay, who’s the bad guy here again?
Huh?! 6) And how will he be sure that Ian will return to the hospital when the bleeper goes off. Why doesn’t Ian go on another hedonistic party binge? Why the hell would Ian want to perform the operation? Unless he intends to discredit Jason? That’s a really lame form of revenge
Huh?! 7) Jason goes to tell his ex-fiancé that Ian is free again. This is a fiancé whom Ian has clearly terrified and even physically scarred. “If I can find you so can he,” says Jason. Her response? “I’m not moving. I have a new life here with a new partner and son.” Oh good. Just condemned them to psycho stalker’s new reign of terror then. (And why does she allow Ian to lift her fringe to reveal the scar other than for a gloopily melodramatic “shock” reveal for the audience?)
The list could go on, and on, and on. But you get the point. The pilot takes ludicrous plotting to new levels that border on insultingly bad. But plot-holing isn’t the only problem. Oh dear no.
Ian’s bad guys antics are surprisingly low rent. In a pilot you need something – some moment – that memorably defines his character. An image that will linger and cast a shadow over the rest of the series. Instead we’re told a lot about how evil and conniving he is, but all we get to see is a TV-friendly fight, a bit of Saturday Night Fever strutting, some blood on a shirt and a few naff insults (“You have a small penis, don’t you? It can’t be easy living with a small penis. Just don’t take it out on the rest of us.” It’s hardly Hannibal Lecter is it?).
Ian needs to be a scary, frightening character. Instead he comes across like Damon Salvatore after a few too much weed mixed with the Riddler from ’60s Batman, all rolling eyes and wavy arms. It doesn’t help that actor Stephen Pasquale is not particularly convincing as either a hot-shot surgeon or a psycho bad guy. In fact, it‘s hard to know what Pasquale would be convincing as on the evidence here – a second-rate actor, maybe?
The tone is all over the place, veering from sitcom to Dexter to Casualty. Because, oh yes, this is a medical drama too, and the worse kind, with cheesy b-plots about patients with issues that only a hotshot, genius doctor with a kind ear and a evil alter ego can help with.
There are flashes of… well, not brilliance exactly, but flashes of not-as-crap-as-the-rest-ness. When Ian writes Happy Birthday on Jason’s arms, and Jason later leaves a video message for Ian to watch, you get a glimpse of what should have been the driving force behind the show – how these two communicate, and how they regard each other. It’s the one original, intriguing gimmick the show can boast, and yet it fails to utilise it.
Do No Harm has the lowest viewing figures for a drama premiere on any of the US big four networks ever. Odd that. How did the audience know it was going to be so dire before they they’d even watched it? The ones who stayed away clearly made the right decision, though…
WEIRDEST POTENTIAL DOUBLE ENTENDRE OF THE WEEK “See if Doctor Freeman has an opening – I should probably get a vasectomy.”
AMONG ITS MANY OTHER CRIMES This is one of those shows that credits its audience with absolutely no intelligence at all, time and time again foisting banally contrived words into its characters mouths to explain things that really don’t need to be explained. When Jason injects himself with his serum but doesn’t fall unconscious, he pointlessly gasps, “It’s not working!” When the patient with the facial recognition problems doesn’t recognise his family, Jason tells him, “That’s your family,” when it’s bleedin’ obvious and a sad look would have been more effective. “No money! No credits cards!” growls Ian when he searches through Jason’s jacket. Yeah we got that. Both Jason and Ian seem to be inflicted with some “running commentary” syndrome.
PORTENTOUS FIRST LINE “What happens in 10 hours?” Hmm, let’s see. NBC bosses hear the news about the ratings and decide to cancel the show would be our guess.
BEST LINE Ian: “Give me a second to catch up. Are we fighting? Is this a fight? Oh good, we are fighting. Woohooo!”
Do No Harm airs on an embarrassed NBC in the States; Watch has the UK rights (tough luck)