January 31, 2013


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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DO NO HARM: Thursday 10PM on NBCIf Nothing Else Is On…

What is it with NBC and dual personalities?  Is the network trying to tell us something?  A couple of years ago it gave us My Own Worst Enemy, with Christian Slater as an ordinary family man who periodically transformed into a super-spy.  Now we’ve got  DO NO HARM, a variation on “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” centered around a Philadelphia neurosurgeon.

From 7AM-9PM every day, Dr. Jason Cole (Steven Pasquale) is a brilliant, conscientious doctor who’s kind to his patients and generous to his colleagues (except the staff jerk, Dr. Jordan, played by Michael Esper).  The lovely Dr. Solis (Alana De La Garza) has a crush on him, and she likes her too.  But he can’t be with her, or anyone else, after 9PM, because that’s when he abruptly becomes a completely different person named Ian.  Ian looks like Jason (there are no special make-up effects), but he’s your basic rampaging id, a nonstop party animal who doesn’t draw the line at physical violence.  For 5 years, Jason has had Ian under control (ever since Ian did something bad to Jason’s ex-wife).  But when we meet Jason, he’s about to discover that the drug he takes to keep Ian at bay no longer works, and his alter-ego is free to come out and play each night.

One of the issues network have to deal with when they decide whether or not to order a series is to figure out, beyond the pilot, what the show is going to be–13 episodes down the road, 22 episodes, 3 years or more.  A lot of promising pilots get ordered and then flop once they’re on the air, because the series has nowhere to go, or can only become increasingly contrived and silly.  That’s what happened to My Own Worst Enemy, to ABC’s Flashforward, to last season’s Awake, and it also happened to The Event, on which Do No Harm creator David Schulner was a Co-Executive Producer (although he wasn’t the show creator).  All of this is by way of saying that while the Do No Harm pilot is fairly compelling, and very well directed by Michael Mayer, it’s not clear what the series is going to be.

It’s going to become quickly monotonous if every episode involves Jason trying to clean up the mess Ian made after 9PM.  (It would be like turning The Hangover into a weekly series.)  On the other hand, since the pilot makes it clear that Ian doesn’t have Jason’s medical skills, it will be difficult to bring Ian into the medical millieu–and while the pilot finds a reasonably clever way to have Ian solve the problem of one of Jason’s patients, that’s not a trick that can be easily reused.  (The medical plots themselves are more or less familiar.)  The pilot introduces a plotline involving Ian and whatever happened to Jason’s ex-wife, but on first glance, that doesn’t seem promising in the long term.  Since (and we don’t know why this is in the pilot) Ian doesn’t arrive in Jason’s mind unexpectedly, but always promptly at 9PM, he’s not going to disrupt Jason’s life without warning.  Of course, it’s certainly possible that Schulner and NBC have a plan in mind and know exactly how to structure the series–but if so, that’s not evident in the pilot.

That being said, the pilot isn’t a bad hour of television.  Pasquale, who was one of the firemen on Rescue Me, handles the segues between gentle Jason and uncontrollable Ian well, and Schulner and Mayer keep the pace pretty breathless, with a literally ticking clock as each of Jason’s transformations nears.  The show mixes the medical and supernatural (if that’s what it is) situations effectively.

The once-proud Thursday10PM slot has been a wasteland for NBC for the past couple of seasons, and one would think Do No Harm can do no worse than Prime Suspect, The Firm and Rock Center has performed there.  In any case, the jury will have to stay out on Do No Harm until it’s been on the air for a few weeks and demonstrated that it knows how to transform itself into a viable series.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."