The idea of a man being taken over by his own subconscious, or alter ego, was immortalized in Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Storytellers continue to borrow elements of that tale, just consider Bruce Banner and his mean, green other half.
Now, NBC is examining the idea of two personalities inhabiting one body, albeit in a much less intelligent and entertaining way, with Do No Harm. The show premieres at 10 p.m. EST Thursday night, but the first episode is available online now via NBC's official site.
Steven Pasquale (Rescue Me) stars as Dr. Jason Cole. He's a surgeon that doesn't work nights, keeps to himself, has diabetes and is in bed every night by 8:25 p.m. Doesn't exactly sound like the best character for a television series, does it? Turns out Dr. Cole is harboring a secret. From 8:25 p.m. to 8:25 a.m. he becomes a different person entirely. In him resides a darker soul that may be someone from Cole's past. The pilot makes sure to hold back as much as it can.
For years he has contained this "disease" with a concoction cooked up by a friend. His body has built a resistance to the formula, and he can no longer control his own mind or body or whatever it is that is taking over.
It's a strange conceit that has a bit of a cheese-ball feel when you throw in details like the 8:25 element. But Pasquale sheds his goofy image from Rescue Me and inhabits both his characters quite well. The rest of the cast is mostly left by the wayside save for a romantic interest and a few hospital stragglers.
The pilot is interesting in that it never does more than present its basic conceit and hint at a few minor details. We don't find out what Cole's back story is or who this person is that comes out to play at 8:25 every night until 8:25 every morning. This may turn off many viewers, but it does work to build up curiosity in what is happening.
Beyond curiosity, however, and a good lead performance, Do No Harm is a bit of a wash for NBC. The show takes Stevenson's conceit and never works with it beyond an extremely simplistic manner. The pilot offers little as far as introducing either personality, and the direction goes from being not stylized enough to some weird handheld moments that are supposed to pass for flair.
There was a lot of potential to work with and the direction and writing should have tried the sell the offbeat and strange nature of the story more. It's all a little too bland.
The show still packs potential. There's a ton of story to work with, Pasquale proves to be a formidable leading man, and the show can only get better from here. It could become a guilty pleasure for TV lovers or it could be quickly forgotten along with other NBC attempts at great drama.