Do No Harm: Pilot

“What happens at 8:25?”

In general, pilots are giant messes. They are an hour of television designed to set up the plot, tone, setting, and themes of the series, introduce the main characters, their pasts, and their relationships to one another in a clear but not overly repetitive manner, deliver some form of plot and not just mindless exposition, and make it sell. It’s the last one that usually bugs me the most. Lingerie-clad women stroll through scenes; there’s violence; there’s blood: everything networks think audiences love. Honestly, it’s a miracle when a pilot doesn’t suck. That said, this pilot sucked.

The plot centers on Dr. Jason Cole (Steven Pasquale), a handsome, young neurosurgeon with a sociopathic alternate personality named Ian Price. Let the absurdity of that sentence sink in for a minute. This show has ‘guilty pleasure’ written all over it in cherry-scented magic marker. It thinks it’s filling NBC’s cerebral thriller void (R.I.P. Awake) but I think it very likely Do No Harm will take over the terrifically ridiculous, terribly addicting crown left by Ringer. It’s the kind of show you claim to watch ironically, but secretly cannot get enough of. Not that I loved Ringer. I only watched it ironically.

The episode fell into some common pilot pitfalls. Firstly, it spent far too long setting up the basic story. I get the feeling the writers thought their split personality idea was highly complicated. It is not. Dr. Jekyll anyone? They really should not have spent so long on this. Secondly, they tried to do too much. The escape of Ian Price, the would-be romantic rendezvous with Dr. Solis (Law and Order’s Alana De La Garza), the return of the ex-fiancée Olivia, the abusive husband story, and the brain surgery plotline in addition to all the exposition created a completely over-stuffed episode.

I was a little perplexed by who Jason chose to tell about his special condition and why. His buddy the lab technician knows, the support group guy knew, and Olivia knows. Why not tell his boss (the always divine Phylicia Rashad)? Why not tell his love interest? Hell, why not tell everyone? Ian Price’s existence is presented as a legitimate medical condition. What would be the harm in letting everyone know he exists and allowing himself to be locked up at night?

I liked that Ian could be suppressed with medication and that his body chemistry is somehow different from Jason’s. Not only is the pseudo-science a nod to the original The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but this leaves the sci-fi door open. The idea of a science fiction split personality is much more interesting to me than exploring the difficulties a person with the actual, real-life version of the problem.

The suds-loving side of me also liked the love triangle between Olivia, Jason, and Ian. I’m really liking the set-up of this and not just because I adore Ruta Gedmintas. I am not happy about the kid, however. Not happy. Throwing the kid in at the end felt like a response to a note from the network (“Where is this going?”). Cole can only serve to complicate the situation in an un-fun way. I was supposed to be enjoying a good old-fashioned love triangle of super sexy people. Now I have to worry about the welfare of an adorable child? Grar!

From a storytelling perspective, I think the show’s biggest problem will be the good/evil dichotomy. In the pilot, it is absurdly clear that Ian is evil. I think it was supposed to be clear that Jason is good, but positioning Ian to kick the crap out of the abusive husband falls into a bit of a grey area. Of course, the abusive husband completely deserved the crap kicked out of him, but Jason set Ian up in such a way that he could have turned on anyone. It didn’t seem super responsible.

I think they will run into problems if they try to keep Ian as evil, particularly if they want to work the love triangle in any meaningful way. I think it would make for a fantastic twist if Olivia was two-timing Jason with his alter, but in order for that to work, Ian is going to have to be slightly less evil. Not to mention, Jason as the consummate good guy will get old. I like shades of grey in my television. Black and white gets old very quickly.

Bits and Pieces:

The whole concept really reminded me of Glory and Ben from season 5 of BtVS.

I’m choosing not to address the completely unbelievable fact that a man in his thirties was able to attend medical school, complete his internship and residency, and ascend to being chief of neurosurgery at a large hospital while only conscious for twelve hours a day.

Dissociative identity disorder affects .01% of the population. Philadelphia has a population of around 1,500,000, meaning approximately 150 Philadelphians suffer from DID. Therefore, the size of Jason’s support group is not as ridiculous as you might think.

Why is a neurosurgeon performing a shoulder surgery?

When he’s talking to Olivia, Jason indicates that he used to be the one out at night, while Ian had the days. When/why the switch? Also, are we sure that Jason is the real person and Ian is the alter?


No quotes section because most of the dialogue in this ep was extremely awkward exposition. It was seriously some of the clunkiest writing I’ve ever heard.


CrazyCris said...

Ugh! It definitely sucked! And yet you're right... it could become mildly addictive in the guilty pleasure category! I'll give it another episode to see what it's like once the intro is out of the way and then we'll see... ;o)

Yup, we definitely suspension of disbelief to believe he completed med school etc. somehow! :P

Glory and Ben? Long time no see! They were super well done!!! Took me completely by surprise! (can Whedon please hurry up and give us S.H.I.E.L.D.?)
I'm also thinking a bit of Vincent and his buddy with all the lab skills!

CrazyCris said...

You know what Jason and Ian need? A trial to see who gets the body and who gets kicked out! Does anyone know how to contact the Tollan? ;o)

ChrisB said...

This was a bad, bad, bad show, but a great review, sunbunny. You nailed everything that was wrong with it. The biggest problem for me is that I don’t care, either about the premise or the characters. For me to keep watching, I have to invest, even slightly, in the characters and neither Jason nor Ian intrigued me enough to keep watching.

HellBlazerRaiser said...

The pilot wasn't superb, but it was good enough that I'm in for the long haul.

I love that it's set in Philly. That surprised me added to my enjoyment.

I do want to know what caused the split and why it's set @ 8:25.

sunbunny said...

HellBlazerRaiser - I'm planning on watching at least the next one or two. I'm curious to see what the writers have planned. Hopefully the show will get better. I definitely won't be doing reviews, though. My Thursdays are busy enough!

nancy namaste said...

Sorry, but comparing this plot to a cherry-scented magic marker is a serious injustice to scented markers everywhere.

Jess Lynde said...

I noticed some of you commenting that you were in for a few more episodes, and I'm not sure you should hold your breath on that front. Apparently this show completely tanked in the ratings last night. Completely and totally bombed. (Worse than The Mob Doctor.) It might get one more episode, but if it does as badly as the premiere, I'm not sure how many more NBC would air. It might depend on whether they've got anything else to stuff in that time slot.

sunbunny said...

Serves them right for making a terrible show and then putting it up online for free two weeks before it aired. They've been crazy on the publicity for the show too. I swear it's on just about every bus I've seen recently.

ChrisB said...

Wow, Jess, you’re not kidding. TVLine’s report was right on the money: “NBC’s Do No Harm on Thursday premiered to 3.1 million total viewers and a 0.9 demo rating, marking — wait for it — the lowest-rated, in-season debut of any scripted Big 4 series ever.” Ouch! Their other two January shows, 1600 Penn and Deception are also doing very badly.

NBC is having a dire year. They have only three new shows all year that have done at all well. Go On, which is now beating The New Normal week in and week out. Not surprisingly as the latter got very full of itself very quickly and moved from my favorite new comedy to one I don’t watch any more.

Chicago Fire is doing well. This is an OK show, but it is not must-see TV. Revolution is the final show, but it will be interesting to see how the ratings hold up after such a long hiatus.

Jess Lynde said...

Actually, Go On and The New Normal aren't doing that great in the ratings right now, either. Losing The Voice lead-in really hurt them. Both were around a 1.2 in the demo this past week. With only 3+ million viewers. It's actually making the decision to hold Revolution until March so that it can maintain The Voice lead-in seem somewhat wise.

HellBlazerRaiser said...

HellBlazerRaiser - I'm planning on watching at least the next one or two. I'm curious to see what the writers have planned. Hopefully the show will get better. I definitely won't be doing reviews, though. My Thursdays are busy enough!

I don't watch anything else on Thursdays. I cant think of any other shows that are even on Thursdays...

sunbunny said...

HBR - I watch Person of Interest and Scandal (both of which I review for the site), plus Elementary, Parks & Rec, 30 Rock (RIP), Community (starting this week!!), The Office, and I still haven't given up on 1600 Penn. So, yeah. It's a busy night for me :)