Review: Series Premiere of 'Do No Harm' Medical Drama Flatlines

Steven Pasquale plays dual roles on Do Name Harm

Do No Harm broadcast its series premiere on NBC this week. Since it’s a medical drama we need a prognosis: the good news is that Philadelphia, PA, where the series was filmed, looks great throughout. The bad news? Everything else.

Apparently, most of the viewing public was apathetic to Do No Harm’s time-worn Jekyll and Hyde scenario, so much so that it debuted to a 0.9 rating with adults 18-49 and 3.1 million viewers on Thursday night. “If the preliminary numbers hold, it will be the lowest-rated scripted series to premiere on one of the big four during the regular season in history,” states The Hollywood Reporter. “Those numbers, even if they improve, all but guarantee imminent cancellation.”

Somebody call a doctor.

With such a tired dual existence storyline, Do No Harm would have to be amazingly innovative, witty or jam-packed with adventure to make an impact. It wasn’t. Steven Pasquale – late of Rescue Me and the quickly cancelled The Playboy Club – plays brilliant neurosurgeon-by-day Dr. Jason Cole. Cole is kind, wise and selfless, the very things that his chemically-induced (no, we don’t find out how or why in this first episode) nighttime alter ego, Ian Price, is not.

Price is mean and hedonistic. We know this because Pasquale furrows his brow ever-so-slightly, makes his eyes go glassy and distant, pulls back his thin lips and flashes a wee bit more of his tiny teeth when in bad-boy mode. That’s about the extent of Pasquale’s acting skills here. We can see that the Price/Hyde character is into sex and partying because we watch the Cole/Jekyll character waking up at 8:25 a.m. (he gets to be good 12 hours a day, until he switches over at 8:25 p.m.) to a hazy vision replaying in his head with girl-on-girl canoodling, booze and multiple partners. As this is network television, every woman with Cole when he wakes is clothed, which makes the attempt at a Bacchanal look like a lingerie trunk show gone awry.

Later we watch Price in a motel seduction scene with Cole’s fellow doctor, Lena Solis (blandly played by pretty Alana De La Garza). Here, Pasquale plays Price with a dull leer and his voice at a lower octave. Still not sexy. He got too aggressive, she ran out, he probably raided the motel’s mini-bar. The fact that he allowed her to leave instead of keeping her captive, means, in some fashion, that the Price character isn’t completely bad. Hell, he’s even weirdly good at times, and is even aware of what his nice-guy alter ego is up to. When Cole treats a battered wife who doesn’t wish to press charges against the husband who struck her (a police captain who picks his missus up from the hospital) it is Price who enacts revenge against the bad cop by going to his house (still as Cole) then going ballistic on the wife-beater as Price.

The support characters don’t do much to save Do No Harm. There’s the taunting, nerdy Doctor Jordan (Michael Esper) who’s constantly rattling Cole’s cage, yet gets served “small penis” insults by Pasquale’s Price character. There’s the ladies: the aforementioned if-you-need-a-friend femme fatale Dr. Solis, Cole’s kind hospital administrator, Dr. Vanessa Young, played ably by Phylicia Rashad (nice to see her, even if it is here), and one-time Cole paramour Olivia Flynn (Ruta Gedmintas) in a constant state of fluster due to Price’s occasional stalking. At one point we see Price menacing Flynn’s kid’s with a monkey toy by telling the child "monkeys have been known to eat their young." The original Hyde would have ripped the boy's throat open; Do No Harm’s Hyde-ish Price is just a catty bully.

If Do No Harm’s script was sharper, you could forgive the tedious acting, but the writing is listless and cliché ridden. “If you see me later, walk the other way,” says Price. I would have if I weren’t reviewing it.

Luckily, for all of Do No Harm’s blundering characterizations, one remains solid: its location, Philadelphia. As a character unto itself, we see its smart side (the Union League and Cole’s 21st & Spruce Street residence), and its more common elements such as SEPTA stations throughout the city. Boathouse Row and Broad Street are lit heroically with City Hall looming like a beacon of civility. Or, maybe it’s meant to loom diabolically like the Tower of London. It’s hard to tell.

It would be nice to imagine that the next episodes of Do No Harm get some form of healing. If this were a medical emergency, we’d go in, operate and fix the darned thing. Sadly, this show may get a toe tag before a script doctor gets near it.

Do No Harm airs Thursday at 10/9c on NBC

To read our previous coverage of Do No Harm click here.

Photo ©NBC

Posted on Saturday, February 2, 2013