Why I Wont Be Watching NBC’s Ridiculous Show “DO NO HARM”
I just watched a new NBC show called “Do No Harm” in which a handsome, kind surgeon tries to balance his life while containing his second, asshole, playboy, adrenaline fueled, revenge-seeking personality. It’s a pretty wild premise to begin with, but it isn’t executed very well either.
The pilot at first intrigued me, but eventually left be unable to accept the premise as even remotely believable – it just leaves too many weird inconsistencies. Here’s what I observed and why I won’t be watching.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Firstly, we are meant to believe that this surgeon, Dr. Cole, has an alter ego (or the more hip, “alter,” as what can only be described as Cole’s “Multiple Personality Disorders Anonymous” sponsor calls it) who has a different name, Ian, and who arrives squarely at 8:25pm and disappears at 8:25am (no word on whether he observes daylight savings or not), leaving Cole with no* memory of what happened the night before. (*It seems both Cole and Ian can remember things here and there, more on this later).
We meet the character on his 30-something-th birthday as he awakes from his 1,825th (5 years) consecutive night of being knocked out by very powerful drugs. Drugs which he acquires (at least since he’s worked at his current position) from his pharmacist colleague who, seemingly in his hours and hours of free time, is able to run lab experiments and concoct the world’s most powerful sleep medication without anyone else at the hospital pharmacy noticing. Drugs which Cole doesn’t take orally, or even with a standard syringe, but with some sort of injection gun that immediately shoots the special blend into his veins in less than a second. An injection gun that apparently doesn’t leave the mark of repeated needle use seen on drug addicts on Cole’s arm. An injection gun that Cole fires repeatedly into his arm in frustration when it doesn’t work (seemingly risking injecting air into his veins and killing himself).
We are introduced to the pharmacist and magic medicine maker and his conveniently expositive dialogue because – surprise! – Cole needs a new batch. A batch which only consists of one vial? (Why not get a week or month’s worth out of the way?) A batch which is clearly unnecessary due to the presence of several full vials in Cole’s nightstand visible in the very first show of the show). A batch which Cole and the pharmacist discuss openly very close to within earshot of other employees but don’t feel the need to lower their voice. A batch for which Cole provides nothing to the pharmacist. Does the pharmacist do this just because Cole asked him too? What’s in it for him? Why not ask for at least SOMETHING in compensation?
After the pick up from his dealer, Cole scrubs in for surgery, but not before setting a handy 10 hour timer on his watch at 10:25am to add a nice ticking clock aspect to the show. A timer that no real person would use (Why not just set a series of alarms? Is it really that hard to see how long until 8:25pm it is? He can tell time right?). A timer that, despite running on his watch every day, never draws suspicion from his coworkers or friends?
Just before the moment Cole would put on a glove and pick up a scalpel for surgery, he dramatically and ceremoniously checks his blood sugar level from a large machine rolled inside the surgical room. A blood check which is, for some reason, performed after Cole washes up and puts on his scrubs, risking infection to whomever he performs surgery on. A blood check which is apparently mandated for safety due to Cole’s supposed diabetes. Diabetes that cole apparently uses as an excuse for not working at night (because diabetes cares what time it is). Why such an elaborate and dramatic checking of blood just before surgery? Maybe this will conveniently create suspense some time in the near future!
Cole, because he must, has a nemesis at the hospital who is a douche and hates him. Such a douche that even as a medical doctor, one who must have some level of compassion for humans to be so invested in saving lives, he still takes time out of his day to verbally assault another doctor who has a stutter – an actual studied speech impediment. Sure Cole needs a bad guy for the audience to hate, but must he be a heartless asshole? Apparently so.
Cole ends his work day (and birthday) by making sure to stop by every relevant character to the TV show in quick succession before going home. We meet his boss, his potential love interest colleague, his “sponsor” guidance counsellor, the whole cast. But there’s a ticking clock and he really wants to have a birthday drink with the girl, so of course, he risks it, right? And of course, his alter starts showing his face a tad earlier than expected, right?
He rushes home, barely able to walk at times, and injects the vial in the nick of time (but not before fumbling with it like a Three Stooges character and dropping it under the bed JUST out of reach). But, uh oh, the drugs don’t work, and we “meet” the alter ego.
So imagine you’re Ian, the alter ego, and you just woke up and realized, “What the fuck? I’ve been asleep for 5 years?!?! That bastard is trying to keep me away! How can I seek revenge on myself?” The answer is apparently hookers and blow. Cole wakes up the next day surrounded by half naked women in a fancy penthouse apartment and tiptoes around the bodies before heading into work in a panic.
The pharmacist explains that, uh oh, Ian must have developed immunity. Immunity that manifested itself instantly rather than over time. And on his birthday, no less. Interesting.
The rest of the pilot becomes a cat and mouse game of “how can I fuck over my other half more?” Cole takes a cab as far away as he can and locks himself up in a hotel room, but not after giving his phone, keys and wallet to the front desk man and telling him “a messenger” will pick them up to send back to the hospital for Cole to pick up the next morning. A messenger we never see and just assume Cole set up. A messenger who somehow gets the stuff back to the hospital the next morning (must have been a courier).
So Cole settles in for the night and dramatically scribbles “DO NO HARM” in the steam on the glass shower door as he shifts into Ian-mode. Why not just write it on one of those hotel paper pads? Why risk the steam erasing his message? Because TV! That’s why! Ian manifests in the shower and discovers he’s in a hotel room with no money, and no cell phone, EXCEPT! Cole conveniently forgot to take everything out of his pockets. Oops! He left a piece of paper containing his love interests phone number on it. Did he forget he had it? Did he think Ian wouldn’t call the number? How dumb can you be?
So needless to say, Ian calls up the girl and she drives (without question) all the way out to this far away hotel. A hotel room which Ian previously trashed like a drugged out rock star searching for anything Cole left behind. A hotel room which the girl doesn’t question entering after Ian says he trashed it looking for her number. Uhhh creepy. So yeah, what happens? Suave playboy Ian seduces her and well, we are left to our imagination as Massive Attack’s “Angel” plays. (Spoiler, she didn’t give it up!)
We learn during his time with Leena, the love interest, that Ian is able to remember flashes of memories Cole has of her, and it seems Cole remembers flashes of what Ian does as well. Interesting that Ian is never able to remember a flash of Cole’s secret safe code in his office. A safe whose sole purpose seems to be for keeping a second cell phone with only his ex-girlfriend’s phone number on it. An ex-girlfriend (and ex fiancee?) who was almost killed by Ian. An ex-girlfriend who Ian seemingly effortlessly tracks down later in the episode, rendering the cell phone safe useless. An ex-girlfriend Cole takes a train to visit just to tell her Ian is back and she’s in danger. A conversation that could have been had over the phone. A conversation which instead provides Ian with the possibility to flashback to this memory Cole has created. Awesome.
Cole wakes up the next day with a mouth full of nastiness after Ian spent the night chain smoking and using his shoe as an ashtray. He magically makes it back to work in a timely manner (though without changing his clothes) despite having no wallet or cell phone. How did he get back? Because TV!
The dick doctor notices Cole’s suspicious behavior – namely showing up late unclean and unkempt – and calls in a background check to Cole’s former employer. A call he makes on his cell phone while walking the halls of the hospital as other people walk by, seemingly hearing his conversation asking for dirt on Cole. A call he probably would have really made sitting at his desk in privacy.
But now how will Cole contain Ian again? The pharmacist suggests a really good solution, actually – that Cole spend his nights locked up in the psyche ward. Maybe it hits too close to home for Cole, he is mentally ill after all, so he turns down the offer. An offer made to him, again, within earshot of other employees.
Cole instead decides to hatch a somewhat unnecessarily elaborate plot to give himself one night of respite from Ian’s shenanigans. A patient needs an “awake craniotomy” so Cole reschedules the surgery (after a dramatic plea with his boss to even be allowed to conduct the risky procedure, one he’s never even done before) for after 8:25pm, so Ian has to perform it. But not before he starts a fist fight with a police officer and part-time wife beater as he transitions into Ian so Ian is forced to finish the fight before being paged in for brain surgery! Ian scrubs in and just before he’s going to seriously fuck up this guy’s brain, ruining Cole’s career, he must submit to the diabetes blood test. Naturally, Ian’s elevated adrenaline levels confuse the machine and it triggers an alarm that Ian/Cole is going into diabetic shock, despite no visible symptoms an Ian’s assurance that he feels fine. But still the trained medical staff instantly inject him with unneeded insulin, trusting a machine over the words of Ian, and dropping him into a deep sleep for 10 hours. The best sleep Cole’s had in a while, he says, except those 12 hours a night he was getting for the last 5 years.
Why risk a man’s brain surgery on the hope that Ian would trip the diabetes alarm and be injected with unnecessary insulin? Isn’t it rather risky? How could he be sure Ian would fail the test? And why risk Ian even being available to perform the surgery in the first place after getting into a fist fight with a cop? Because TV! The doctor enraged by the beaten wife is a classic medical show trope. Glad they managed to get it into the first episode. He only knew the wife was being beaten because his assistant (surgeons have personal assistants?) magically produced record of a restraining order placed by the wife. Is he a hacker or just have a good friend at the police department? Who knows.
Cole performs the life saving brain surgery (for reals this time guys) and saves the day. The wife of the man he saves is content to merely knock on his office window and mouth the words “thank you” through the glass, rather than thank him face-to-face or shake his hand or hug him or kiss him or anything a reasonable person does when a doctor saves their loved one’s life.
With drugs out of the picture and other means too exhausting, Cole decides to take on Ian head-first, recording a video on him home computer for Ian to watch that night. A video pleading with Ian to leave him alone in exchange for being left alone.