NBC hasn't had a lot of luck with dramas that air on Thursday nights at 10:00 p.m. Even the modest lead-in from NBC's comedy block hasn't been enough of a push to keep some of the past dramas on the air. Rest in piece Prime Suspect, The Firm and Awake. Whether or not David Schulner's Do No Harm manages to buck this unfortunate trend remains to be seen, but there is potential in this story about a man and his unruly alternate personality.
The series stars Steven Pasquale (Rescue Me) as Dr. Jason Cole, a talented and ambitious surgeon with a pretty major problem in his life, and its name is Ian Price. Ian is the Mr. Hyde to Jason's Dr. Jekyll. Jason's been trying to keep his alternate personality from emerging each night, but when something goes wrong, Ian comes out to play and wreaks havoc on Jason's life, indulging in women, drugs and other reckless behavior, and leaving Jason to wake up the following morning to pick up the pieces of the mess. The pilot episode introduces us to the situation when Jason's medication doesn't take effect in time. So, we get a taste of both characters and their motivations, including Jason's interest in fellow doctor Lena Solis (Alana De La Garza), and Ian's interest in pursuing an old flame (played by Ruta Gedmintas) who wants nothing to do with him.
Rounding out the cast are Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show), Michael Esper (A Beautiful Mind), Lin-Manuel Miranda (House), John Carroll Lynch (The Drew Carey Show) and Samm Levine (Freaks and Geeks). The cast may be the series' greatest strength from the start, and with the focus mainly on Jason/Ian, and Pasquale delivers strong performances as both roles. Those of us who watched Rescue Me have seen the funny, lighter side of Pasquale, who played Sean Garrity in the firefighter drama. Do No Harm gives us two sides of Pasquale, with Jason as the kind, professional and well meaning guy, and Ian as the bad-boy with a disregard for the law and a nasty streak. Pasquale balances both characters fairly well, carrying himself differently for each part in a way that makes it relatively easy for us to see which character we're looking at without the difference being overly drastic.
The pilot episode introduces us to Jason's predicament, and the second episode takes it even further, showing us just how messy Jason's life can get with Ian in the picture. This two characters communicate with one another via cell phone and computer videos, which creates some dialogue between Jason and Ian, and gives us further insight into what they're thinking and how they feel about one another. That dialogue also brings the show a bit closer to NBC's short-lived My Own Worst Enemy, which also had the lead character using technology to communicate with himself. The general premise of the series actually bears some resemblance to the Christian Slater drama, in that it too follows a man who's stuck dealing with an unpredictable alter-ego, except there's no spy-business for Jason Cole, which leaves Do No Harm a bit more flexible in how it uses Ian in this Jekyll & Hyde tale.
The plot is a bit wobbly, especially as we try to understand what Ian wants besides to run around in Jason's body making a mess of his life. Ian's appetite for reckless behavior also causes the drama to escalate pretty quickly. That may be a turn-off for some, or it'll be the thing that keeps people watching, if only to see how Jason deals with Ian's messes. At this point, the jury's still out. There might be a bit more to this story if and when Ian's character is developed. As it stands in the first couple of episodes, he's painted as something of a villain who wants to have fun and get into trouble. That may make for some exciting conflict for Jason, but it doesn't really do much to define Ian as a character - assuming we're supposed to see him as a character. I'd also like to see some of the rest of the cast utilized a bit more. It doesn't really seem set up as an ensemble show, but a bit more Phylicia Rashad never hurt anyone.
The above criticisms may be moot if Do No Harm isn't able to overcome its time-slot history. Awake got off to a better start than Do No Harm does and that series, unfortunately, didn't make it past its first season. But NBC hasn't been able to get anything to really stick at 10:00 p.m. on Thursday nights since ER, and I'm not confident Do No Harm will manage to surpass its predecessors in that respect. With that said, I do think there's potential in the series premise if given time to develop the story and characters a bit more. The cast is solid, with Steven Pasquale delivering the goods x2.
Do No Harm premieres Thursday, January 31 at 10:00 p.m. ET on NBC.