Do No Harm – Pilot

by deerinthexenonarclights

Though I am often quite critical of the things I review I do try to be positive when selecting topics for my blog posts – picking the shows, films and books that I liked most that week to discuss – and tend to only put myself through things that I think I have a decent chance of finishing happy. Inevitably though something bad will slip between the cracks, something so bad that it cannot go uncommented on and Do No Harm is one such show, at least at this early stage. It’s an upcoming TV drama that simply doesn’t abide by the promise picked to be its title. I’m no doctor but I’m pretty sure I can still diagnose this show as being harmful to your happiness if not your health; so consider this critique a sort of compact to be placed over a cultural wound or a quarantine to stop a broadcast contagion.

Jason Cole, or Dr. J. Cole to all the characters in this show (say it out loud, if you even need to) is a surgeon with a secret. At exactly eight twenty-five each night he turns into a different person, Ian Price ( I- I’m not sure what happened here. Mister-I-Price seems meaningless to me. I guess Ms. Darcey Ide was taken); a exemplar of ego and a danger to all around him. Thankfully though modern science can achieve stunning things and so his curse – or Dissociative Identity Disorder, as the show attempts to shine it up as – really isn’t a problem, Price is kept in check by prototype pharmaceuticals. Until of course he isn’t, because if he didn’t break out there wouldn’t be much of a show.

Though don’t expect the appearance of Price to be a big dramatic event, NBC didn’t call in the effects team responsible for the Hulk to handle things; no, the transformation is one that takes place entirely in lead actor Steven Pasquale’s eyes (and, when given the time, in his wardrobe; donning a trademark dark jacket because, you know…evil). The danger that he represents is also smaller than the concept might suggest, the main thing at risk when Cole transforms is his social reputation because instead of a serial killer Price is simply something of a scoundrel.

Though there are some faint traces of psychological thrill to be found here – hints of a clever Memento-esque approach to memory abound in the first few seconds of each transformation – for the most part this is Jekyll and Hyde Hangover-style: Price smokes cigarettes! He pays prostitutes for sex! He seduces the female lead! He basically just transforms the trite medical melodrama (most of the actors seem to be playing in the daytime soap mode) into softcore porn for a scene every now and then.

The real shame though is that there is almost a show in this story; perhaps one that Steven Moffat already made to mixed results, but a show none the less. Look at Kyle Killen’s last two shows, both of them dealt with a damaged man split in twain, the two sides of his life fighting against one another; AMC’s two best drama’s are all about the dark duality of their two leads, the facade they front with to get through the day. This though, this… I don’t know. It’s a waste of a high concept slot; there are only so many strange series that are allowed to be made each season and Do No Harm has taken that privilege away from a program that could have done far better things with it.

The show is so stilted and takes itself far too seriously to allow any laughs and yet there are no real stakes to its story – the trailer for the coming season shows Price buying a pricey car! No, not a Doctor’s wage he din’t. They play at psychology but in a pulpy, occasional way with no real consistency and take a potentially fascinating idea and make it as banal as TV can be. I was so bored that I couldn’t even laugh at the pilot’s closing line, Price threatening his potential son by pointing out that Monkey’s sometimes eat their own young. Ugh, this is the kind of show that makes people see TV as a waste of time and talent, as a medium for the masses but not for those who know any better and it could, quite easily, have been so much better.