I'm convinced that at some point in its development, Do No Harm aspired to be a quality show about a man wrestling with his personal demons. But after plenty of studio notes and some tweaks from NBC, it became what you saw tonight: a fractured mess. The story of a doctor with an evil alter ego will always invite comparisons to the classic tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but you could just as easily compare it to Frankenstein's monster, because someone stitched a medical procedural to a completely different show. HOWEVER! That doesn't mean we can't grab some popcorn and have ourselves a good time watching this.
Performing the show's medical wonders is Dr. Jason Cole (Steven Pasquale), who rents his own body from 8:25am to 8:25pm. Taking the night shift is Ian Price (Steven Pasquale with a puffed out chest and meaner eyes), a total dick who parties like a guy who'd have Charlie Sheen worried. Each is aware of the other, and the pilot begins as Cole's go-to solution for suppressing Price—knocking himself out every night with super roofies—hits a snag when Price develops a tolerance to it. It's a solid setup. Cole is a ticking time bomb that blows up AND diffuses itself every morning, leaving him to deal with the destruction Price leaves behind. Essentially, my post-college years.
But it's Do No Harm's approach to the whole situation that defines the show. Take the opening sequence:
Cole never missed an opportunity to slip in sly references to his condition ("I've got company!" "I'm not myself at night!") and I don't know if I was laughing or impressed, but we knew that Price was gonna show up at some point. OH WAIT! Don't forget, Do No Harm is also a medical drama! Very quickly we were jerked over to a scene where Cole was doctoring around in someone's brain, and he was telling this patient that the patient himself could tell his family that his surgery went well ONCE COLE CURED HIM! Already I liked this Cole guy. There was blood and brains on the screen, and I don't watch medical dramas so I thought it was pretty graphic for TV but I guess it wasn't? Then Mrs. Huxtable showed up and she and Cole had witty repartee, and Cole gave some luxury box seats to the janitor because he doesn't do nights. Then Cole got his roofies from the hospital pharmacist illegally? Are you serious, Do No Harm? Next scene he talked to a hot doctor lady who wanted into his trou but he had to keep the pants on because, again, he was going to turn into a monster later that night. Then he went to a support group and the head guy convinced him to go out with the lady doctor, so Cole went to a bar and time was ticking and he had to race home to prevent the ONE THING in his life that he cannot let happen (I'd probably manage my time more wisely). He was too late. Or maybe Price had just developed an immunity to the knockout juice. Then Cole woke up surrounded by naked sluts and cocaine-dusted countertops and enough recycling to turn Tent City into Trump Towers. That's when I looked at the time and realized only 10 minutes of this roller-coaster ride had gone by.
You want subtext? Go read a book underwater! You want nuance? Go to Ances R' Us and pull one off the shelf! You want an examination of the human condition? Go buy the Criterion Collection DVD from Amazon and listen to the director's commentary! Unlike neurosurgeon Dr. Cole, who puts his fingers on people's temporal lobes, Do No Harm isn't here to tickle your intellect.
Say what you will about lapses in logic, ridiculous character behavior, and the show's Limburger dialogue ("Be careful, monkeys have been known to eat their young"), Do No Harm is here to entertain your balls off and isn't going to let something like quality get in its way. It's not a good show, it's a fun show, and to me, it's apparent that the people behind the show are in on the game. If you watch Do No Harm expecting greatness, you will come away disappointed. If you watch expecting a party, you might just enjoy yourself.
The best part of the show by far is the back-and-forth between Cole and Price as one man tries to keep himself together while the other tries to tear him apart. Price used Cole's Kenneth Coles as an ashtray and got extra handsy with his office crush, for crying out loud. That's a violation of a man's sacred territory! Is it a metaphor for alcoholism? Maybe. Is it a metaphor for Hulk-ism or werewolf-ism? Maybe that too. All I know is that it's a hoot, and in Episode 2, the battle gets taken to comical proportions.
To add to the fun, Cole used Price to his benefit, as he did with the cop who put the tennis-injury-faking lady in the hospital. Cole arrived at the guy's doorstep at 8:24pm knowing full well what was going to happen next. "Give me a second to catch up. Are we fighting? Is this a fight?" Price asked as he woke up to a haymaker rearranging his jaw. After he kicked the guy's ass, he was paged for surgery, made a comment about the weasely doctor's small penis, and got ready to stick his hands inside a guy's skull to ruin Cole's life, all to the tune of The Black Keys' commercial hit of the year. I mean come on, this was not meant to be taken seriously. But I'll be damned if I didn't enjoy the hell out of it and laugh my ass off.
And let's give credit to Pasquale, who doesn't exactly turn in a Bryan Cranston performance but does a fine job differentiating between the two characters while using his natural boyish charm to increase the rift between his two roles. And the most important part is that it looks like he's having a blast doing it.
As for the medical stuff, sure, it has no business being in the show. But at least it sticks to the basics: Diagnose the problem, encounter some difficulty, overcome that difficulty, and reap the rewards of a happy patient while looking like the good guy. The benefit of including it in Do No Harm is in maintaining the show's heart-exploding pace (anyone else get a Crank vibe from this show?) and using it to cause problems for Dr. Cole. But that's about it. It's the curse of network TV demanding self-contained stories in an otherwise serialized show, and this is about as egregious of a case as I've seen.
Do No Harm is outrageous, batshit insanity. It's also smart enough to embrace it instead of trying to aspire to be anything more. Many, many, many people will hate this show. I am not one of them, and I am going to enjoy it as long as it lasts (which probably won't be that long).
– Why is the pharmacist giving Cole illegal drugs? Why didn't Cole make sure he could get home with plenty of time to sedate himself? What's with the weird shower cinematography? Who would actually write "Do No Harm" in shower steam? Why on Earth would Claire Huxtable give Cole the okay to do an awake craniotomy using the logic that Cole has a perfect record with them when he's never done one before just to try to bring prestige to the hospital even if it means the patient will probably die? Why would his ex-wife Olivia let him brush his hand against the scar he gave her? How did Cole really know Price wouldn't be able to perform surgery, like REALLY? These are questions better left unanswered.
– I LOVED it when the male patient went under the knife and Cole was poking around the language center of his brain, and he said: "It was a tttttttttttttttttttt parrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr—" So funny. Maybe not intentionally funny. But funny.
– If Price bought an airline ticket to Australia, would he end up with the day shift and Cole would have to take nights? Or for that matter, if he went to California, would Cole wake up at 5:25am?
– Is there a significance to 8:25?
– Over/Under on shots of a shirtless Steven Pasquale per episode? I'll set the line at 6.5.
– How soon until Price eats Cole's son?
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom