‘Do No Harm,” NBC’s new Jekyll-and-Hyde drama, is pretty darned silly. Steven Pasquale plays a brilliant neurosurgeon who has what appears to be Dissociative Identity Disorder. By day, specifically from 8:25 a.m. to 8:25 p.m., he is the compassionate Jason Cole, who can move administrative mountains to save a little girl’s eyesight. By night, he is the aggressive, womanizing, drug-abusing Ian Price, who wrecks hotel rooms and steals cars. The digital clock blinks 8:25 p.m., Jason’s eyes become black marbles, and J. Cole — get it? get it? — goes into hiding.
Like Tara on “United States of Tara,” a woman with DID who had a full coffee klatch of alters, Jason is rebounding from a mysterious trauma in his childhood when, he says, he “hurt someone badly.” I’m guessing the nature of that event — which probably occurred at 8:25 p.m. — will emerge as the series develops. There will be back story. But “Do No Harm” isn’t a psychological exploration so much as a medical drama with a gimmick. Despite the presence of a DID support group that Jason refuses to attend, and a sponsor played by John Carroll Lynch, the episodes focus on the brain surgery of the week and Jason’s frenetic struggle to protect his life from disaster.
For years, we learn, Jason was able to drug Ian out of existence, with the help of a friend in the hospital lab. But now Ian has become immune to the drug, and he’s back with a vengeance, furious at Jason for suppressing him. When he takes over Jason’s body at 8:25 p.m., he purposely tries to ruin Jason, going so far as to lure one of Jason’s hospital colleagues, Lena (Alana De La Garza), to a seedy motel room where he tries to harm her.
It’s so totally nuts — that Lena goes to the motel in the first place, and that she stays despite the fact that she can see how the room has already been torn apart. But then there are so many holes in logic in “Do No Harm,” not least of all the fact that a few people in Jason’s life know about his problem and they nonetheless let him continue to practice medicine. And how does Jason-Ian’s body continue running at full speed for 24 hours straight, day after day? I’ll have what he’s having. This isn’t a monthly transition, a “Dexter”-like or werewolf pace; this is a daily grind.
The show, which premieres Thursday night at 10 on Channel 7, is actually slightly better than Christian Slater’s short-lived “My Own Worst Enemy,” another attempt to contemporize Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” That’s not saying much at all, but the two episodes I watched flew by. Show creator David Schulner has failed to craft a workable TV concept, but he does keep the hours tumbling forward effectively, bringing in a number of subplots — Jason’s wounded ex-girlfriend, a hostile co-worker trying to bring him down — to distract us from the nonsense. Also, Schulner cast the right leading man. Pasquale, from “Rescue Me,” manages to delineate Jason and Ian without going too far over the top in either direction.
It’s hard to believe that of all the pilot ideas flying around Hollywood, this is the best that NBC can do. Like “Deception,” “Do No Harm” is built on such a faulty, dated premise that it’s hard to imagine anyone in his or her right mind going for it. Maybe Ian Price has gone into the TV business?Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Matthew