Television review

Split personality entertains in new version of Jekyll & Hyde

 

Do No Harm. 10 p.m. Thursday. WTVJ-NBC 6.

ggarvin@MiamiHerald.com

I wouldn’t call Do No Harm the worst version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ever made. It’s probably not even the worst ever to appear on NBC. Though I’ve never seen it, the network did J&H as a musical back in 1973. One of the few surviving reviews says of that one: “Arguably Kirk Douglas gives the worst performance of his career.” Kirk Douglas?

Outside of NBC, there’s the 1975 Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde, in which a black guy invents a serum that allows him to turn into a mean white guy, which I also didn’t see but gives me the willies a bit, being a mean white guy myself and never having contemplated the possibility that when I think I’m asleep, I might really just be Al Sharpton.

Also, I’ve never seen 1974’s Oversexed, which Jekyll and Hyde reference books — admit it, you didn’t know there was such a thing as a J&H reference book — describe as “shy, withdrawn female scientist invents a formula that turns her into a nymphomaniac.” Of which the Robert Louis Stevenson Archive website astutely observes, “sounds like a pornographic film.”

OK, we could go on with this all day. (Really. Were you aware that Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Mighty Mouse, Bugs Bunny and Tweety and Sylvester all starred in Jekyll and Hyde adaptations? See, if you had some of those J&H reference books, you might know this stuff.) But I think we’ve established that there’s something about Jekyll & Hyde that attracts weird, flaky filmmakers, not to mention cartoon characters, and also makes Kirk Douglas want to sing and dance.

That context firmly established, Do No Harm isn’t so bad. It isn’t so good, either, but let’s keep the glass half-full here. Steven Pasquale ( Rescue Me) plays a brilliant neurosurgeon named Jason Cole who, despite his predilections for jabbing sharp objects into squirmy brain tissue — which he does a lot and always on camera, so you need to think carefully about your feelings about projectile vomiting before sitting down to watch — seems to be a fairly nice fellow. Except his colleagues think he’s a little weird because they never see him at night. That’s right: He’s Dracula!

Ha ha, I can’t believe you fell for that. No, he’s Dr. Jekyll. And at precisely 8:25 every night, he’s taken over by a rather ill-tempered and somewhat rapey guy named Ian Price who is, of course, Dracula. Got you again! He’s Mr. Hyde, dope. And at precisely 8:25 the next morning, the vexatious Price disappears and poor old Dr. Cole comes back to clean up the mess.

For years, the nice Dr. Cole kept the mean Mr. Price at bay by taking experimental knockout drugs so powerful that the DEA is probably going to lock you up just for reading this. But when Dr. Cole wakes up one morning in a pile of coked-up nekkid women, he realizes Mr. Price has grown immune to the knockout pills and has some hard feelings about being drugged unconscious for five years.

This results in some inauspicious behavior toward Dr. Cole’s almost-girlfriend, that sweet Dr. Lena Solis (Alana De La Garza, who seemingly has been in every Law & Order and CSI show ever made). Dr. Cole announces he’s going to start just saying no to drugs. (You can almost hear the DEA guys cheering the background.) “I don’t want to control him any more!” Dr. Cole says. “I want to eliminate him!”

I don’t know why I didn’t find this compelling. Pasquale is, honestly, pretty convincing at changing from good to evil and back without weird makeup or photo effects. The plot is no more innately preposterous than any other Jekyll and Hyde tale, including the Robert Louis Stevenson novel. But somehow the whole thing never really gets untracked. Maybe it’s because Do No Harm often seems like a crude first draft of My Own Worst Enemy, a far more intelligent J&H clone in which the nice guy discovers he isn’t even real but a creation of the Frankenstein behavioral science lab over at the CIA, which is experimenting with the idea of concealing assassins in milquetoast personalities. My Own Worst Enemy was a flop, canceled after nine episodes. Of course, it didn’t have any squirmy brain stuff. Or Kirk Douglas dancing, either.

Read more Glenn Garvin: On TV stories from the Miami Herald

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