Like Sherlock Holmes, Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been done and redone to death. But also like Sherlock, there are still ways to modernize it and keep it fresh. Whether Do No Harm is one of those who can do so well remains to be seen. Viewers of the BBC series Jekyll, healmed by Sherlock and Doctor Who scribe Steven Moffat, will find a lot of similarities with Do No Harm. But the later series has the opportunity to not turn into the same mess Jekyll eventually became (within six episodes!) if it just sticks to the basics. Hit the jump for more on this updated classic.
The idea of Jekyll and Hyde can also manifest as a personality disorder, such as a person having “alters” (like in Showtime’s great but very uneven series United States of Tara). But Do No Harm does away with that idea almost immediately. Jason Cole (Steven Pasquale), a successful and kind brain surgeon by day is biochemically different from his alter, the hellion Ian Price, who makes Jason’s every morning look and feel like the beginning of The Hangover. The mystery of the transformation will surely be central to the overall story, but to start, Jason doesn’t seem that interested in it. He’s been able to keep Ian (who takes over from 8:25pm to 8:25am) at bay for five years thanks to an experimental drug Jason’s hospital co-worker Dr. Eli Malak (Mousa Kraish) developed, but Ian has developed an immunity to it and is now unleashed.
The pilot episode deals primarily with Jason coming up with ways to at first thwart and eventually come to terms with Ian’s return. By the end of the second episode though, it’s clear that the ultimate goal, like all Jekyll and Hyde tales, will be that of balance. Jason is already using elements of Ian to help him, and Ian seems to be finding some of his inner goodness. Still, Jason spends most of his time trying to clean up Ian’s messes, or atone for his many, many sins.
Dramas with such a strong central character tend to have secondary characters that don’t quite measure up or develop past caricatures, but Jason’s co-worker / love interest Dr. Lena Solis (Alana de la Garza) as well as his old flame Olivia Flynn (Ruta Gedmintas) both have been exposed to Jason as well as Ian, and have complicated relationships with them, which is interesting watch unfold. While Lena’s happened quickly and within our view (which is good to get out of the way), Olivia’s involvement is largely mysterious, and seems to be given some room to develop.
Those who know about the Jason/Ian problem and actively help include Malak as well as Jason’s sponsor-type friend, Will Hayes (John Carroll Lynch), who has his own battle with alters that is caused by Disassociated Identity Disorder (better known colloquially as multiple-personality disorder). Josh Sterm, played by Freaks and Geeks alum Samm Levine, is Jason’s personal assistant who will do anything for him, but doesn’t ask a lot of questions.
Every hero needs an external nemesis though, a part played here with snide gusto by Michael Esper as Dr. Kenneth Jordan, who is jealous of Jason’s talent and also suspects there is something amiss with him. Notice all of these doctors, by the way? Do No Harm also doubles as a medical procedural, and relishes showing blood squirting from brains and opened skulls. The hybrid of procedural and classic mystery actually seems to work pretty well in tandem for now, and with only a twelve-episode season (unusually short for network TV) the show might actually be able to balance the two aspects in a way that does service to them both.
The pacing of the pilot was tedious to start, but like most shows, it tends to be a low point. By the second hour, things start to gel, and shows that the series could possibly be worth something after all. It may not be the most exciting show of the winter season, but it could end up as quirkily fun viewing while it’s with us.
Do No Harm premieres Thursday, January 31st at 10pm on NBC