The strange case of Do No Harm
The other night I did something I don’t normally do. I sat down and watched a premier of a network tv series. It was pure timing that got me to do it. I went out to refill my water glass in preparation for watching an episode of Tales from the Crypt. Diane had fallen asleep on the sofa, as she usually does, and left the tv on NBC having earlier watched the series finale of 30 Rock. As I was refilling my glass the announcement came on that the new series Do No Harm was premiering right at that time. So, I diverted to the sofa and decided to take a look with the intention of getting up and leaving the moment that I lost interest. As I’ve said before, I find that network program quality just can’t compare to that of cable original series shows.
Why did I do this, I hear you ask in my overactive imagination. The reason is the British series Jekyll. This was one of those series that I started but didn’t finish because I was watching it with Diane. We watch a lot of series together but, some stuff gets noticeably lower priority than others and Jekyll happened to be one of the things that fell into that bucket. For example, I still haven’t seen the final episode of series two of Sherlock for the same reason. I’m a pretty patient guy so, I’m not complaining here as I am one of those people who thinks complaining is largely a waste of my time. Instead, I would just watch the stuff on my own and rewatch it later when she got around to it. Anyway, when we started seeing the promos for Do No Harm, Diane was immediately reminded of Jekyll. As a result, when I saw the show starting, I figured I would take a look just to see if Diane was right about this being yet another US re-invention of a British series.
It turns out she probably was. While it isn’t a straight re-shoot of the first episode of Jekyll (what I remember of it, as it’s been awhile) it is at the very least borrowing the same idea of being a modern day retelling of The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde. By the end of the episode, Jason (Jekyll) and Ian (Hyde) are leaving messages for one another and establishing a mutual non-self destruction pact which was something that was revealed to have been previously established in the first episode of Jekyll. At this point I would normally make the joke that this could have been a move to simplify the set-up for an American audience but, given that this is a network show, the joke could very well be on me. Moving the setting of Stevenson’s novel to the present will, of course, create problems that would have obvious modern solutions so, any similarities between the two series could just be co-incidence but, I’m still a little skeptical.
Ultimately, I ended up sitting through the entire episode so, as pilots go, I guess it was ok, which is worth something. I can count on two, maybe three, hands the number of pilot episodes that I felt really hit the ground running. The vast majority usually suffer from the opposite problem so, by this yardstick Do No Harm’s first episode was better than usual. While the plot had a couple of rather large holes in it, which I will skip to avoid spoilers, what really kept me watching the episode was the impressive acting of Steve Pasquale in the lead role. When he switched from Jason to Ian, the transformation was truly amazing. It was almost as if two different actors where playing the two characters which lent an effective air of creepiness to the story. Unfortunately, it looks like this will not be enough to carry the series very far because the ratings for the first episode of Do No Harm set new records for low ratings. This really doesn’t surprise me as the concept is probably too alien for the standard formulas required for the success of a network program. While I also will not be watching it, the premier of Do No Harm has inspired me to revisit/finish Jekyll which I would like to point out is still conveniently available on Netflix streaming.