Sunday, February 3, 2013

Do No Harm

Do No Harm
Episode 1: Pilot
By: Carlos Uribe

Do No Harm is about Dr. Cole Price and his evil alternate, evil personality named Ian Price. It is a modern take on the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story.

Spoilers Ahoy!

The idea for a modern-day Jekyll and Hyde story is one that holds a lot of promise. The idea of having the protagonist deal with the consequences of his alternate self's identity could lead to some good drama as the show tries to explore the difference between good and bad. In order for the idea to work, the good guy must be interesting on his own right. It can be easy for a writer to confuse a good person with a bland personality. It is difficult to root for a two-dimensional person as it's nearly impossible to relate with them regardless of the situation they're going through. The idea also needs an antagonist who relishes his immortal behavior while also actually acting evil. In order for the protagonist's world to truly be at stake, his alternative self has to act in a completely depraved manner. The Jekyll and Hyde tragic story isn't an interesting one because of how Jekyll is losing his world but because Hyde's insane actions can be compelling on their own right. The bad guy of the story has to be just as strong as the good guy. Do No Harm is a new medical drama that adds a twist that Cole Price happens to be taken over by the antagonist, Ian Price, every night. It simply isn't a very good one simply because it doesn't make the idea work. The writers tries their best but it's terrible dialogue, weak characters, and by-the-numbers medical situations lead to a show that is ultimately weak. It's never exactly boring because this show can be used as an example of “it's so bad it's good”. Which is fine if that's what you're going for, but there's signs that Do No Harm was to legitimately be a good show. It's just that it fails in every turn to actually be good.


What went wrong? Cole Price is about as bland as you can expect. The show never really takes the time to establish him as anything other than a super doctor who cares. He has a crush on Lena and used to be engaged to an Olivia. He's only in control of his body for twelve hours. That's basically all you need to know about him. He's a good guy but he's presented with no flaws nor with the possibility that he can misbehave as well. It's difficult to root for the guy when he never feels human. A large problem with the pilot is that it rushes into unleashing Ian as soon as possible in order to make Cole's life more difficult. While we do get a general sense of Cole's status quo, it leaves very little room to actually establish a character. Ian is a problem character as well simply because he doesn't really do anything that bad this episode. He just makes sarcastic remarks and tries to have as much sex as he can. If the show is trying to present him as a truly dangerous figure then it's disappointing how weak his actions are. I'm not expecting him to rape or kill but at least give us the sense that he's truly someone to fear. We get hints of that but the show never really goes far enough. It doesn't help that most of what he does that's supposed to be wrong is kept off-screen. Part of the fun is to watch Ian's depraved actions but the show largely skips over them in favor of keeping Cole's conflict in the focus. Which would be fine if Cole was actually a character.

It doesn't help that the entire show is kind of dumb. Cole establishes that his evil self takes over at a particular time at night and then he wakes up in the morning. How can he possibly be a doctor if he only works in the day? Oh-the show explains that away because of Cole's diabetes. It's understandable that they would ensure he had the right blood pressure before going to operate but I'm pretty sure diabetic doctors can work at all times of day. This doesn't really explain how Cole's body can survive with this little sleep. It's not just the mechanics that have logical problems. The dialogue is filled with many lines that were simply terrible. The pilot itself has now become known for ending with a line so nonsensical that it makes you wonder how this was ordered to series. Oh, and the medical drama isn't just a typical show but it actually contains a scene where the female boss decides to allow a procedure on the base fact that because Cole had never tried it before, he hasn't had any failures with it. It's logic that makes no sense and it betrays any semblance that the show takes place in some semblance of reality. It helps make the show be entertaining but that's only because it's hard not to laugh at how bad everything is.

There should be no surprise that the side characters are all undeveloped. The love interest Lena might be a doctor but she primarily exists as a love interest and nothing more. She never feels like a character on her own right. The boss, Vanessa, is a typical medical drama stereotype that never really impresses. Cole's professional rival is Kenneth whose entire existence is to disagree with Cole. Cole has a friend, Ruben, that is trying to develop a way to suppress Cole's alter ego but that's all we learn about him. We don't even know that they're friends neither do they seem to actually have that bond. A large problem with the show is that Cole doesn't seem to have an actual relationship with anyone. They all just exist in the same show and happen to know each other but there's never that dynamic. His assistant, Josh, basically just shows up to be told to cancel Cole's schedule. Cole's former love interest, Olivia, is the character with the most promise as she's trying to rebuild her life after it was destroyed while raising Cole's son. The final character is Cole's group leader, Will, who we learn nothing about. He merely exists to allow Cole to express his fear of what happens with Ian gets out. None of these characters truly develop beyond anything other than their primary function in the show. It truly is a world of stereotypes and medical drama clich├ęs.

Do No Harm is not a very good show of television. It doesn't have a compelling tale to tell nor is it a smart show. It can be entertaining but only because it doesn't seem to realize how stupid it truly can be. The show isn't going to be along for very long because it's the biggest flop ever amongst the major networks but if you like watching television to make fun of it then Do No Harm might be the perfect candidate.

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