Pilot Reviews: Do No Harm and Emily Owens, MD

I’m bundling together a couple of pilot reviews because the two shows have three things in common – they’re both set in hospitals, they were both cancelled within the first few episodes and neither is worth spending an entire review on.

Do No Harm is the more serious of the two, but that’s not saying much. It’s a high-concept show (i.e. you can sum it up in a sentence) – take the story of Jeckyll and Hyde and set it in a modern hospital. So Jeckyll is now Dr Jason Cole, a top flight neurosurgeon, but at 8.25 each night, for 12 hours, he turns into Ian Price a modern-day-monster. Thus far he’s been keeping his evil alter-ego sedated an explaining away his absences as a ‘blood sugar problem’. But now the sedation isn’t working and his alter-ego is really mad at him and out to cause chaos.

I can’t decide whether the concept itself is too stupid to make a workable show, or if it would have worked in more capable hands. Either way, what we have here is just resoundingly ‘meh’. The biggest issue is that it felt cheap. The sets, the types of actor and the setups all felt like they should be located on one of the cheaper cable channels, but even those channels manage to find charismatic actors and have some fun. Here the lead actor never quite felt at home as Jeckyl, and while he was more charismatic as Hyde, that character didn’t felt a bit too much like a comic book villain, there was a lot of talk about how awful he was, but the evidence was all a bit tame.

Tonally I think the show was a bit confused, not sure whether to take the Supernatural kind of route and be a bit tongue in cheek, or take a more gritty look at the devastation that this schizophrenia-esque condition causes. I can’t understand how this ever made it to air, and the audiences apparently agreed – not only was it the “lowest-rated in-season premiere of any any 4-network scripted program EVER” (TV By the Numbers) it then lost 30% of those viewers by the second episode. It never made it to a third.

Emily Owens, MD has almost the opposite problem, tonally and conceptually it knew exactly what it wanted to do and committed to it wholeheartedly; it doesn’t even take a full sentence to describe the concept of this show, just three words – Remake Grey’s Anatomy. It’s so shallow a reconstruction the producers of Grey’s Anatomy could probably form a pretty solid case for copyright infringement.

The titular character narrates the show, she’s fresh out of medical school and just starting as a surgical intern. She and her peers are back to being bottom of the pile, they’re confident but inept, their teachers are all knowing, fast talking, impatient and frustrated with the youngsters. There’s the usual mix of characters, plenty of scope for relationships and misunderstandings but under all the fumbling ineptitude and attitude, everyone is committed to saving lives and playing god. It’s all moved along with a familiar array of cases-of-the-week who deliver nice little metaphors and messages for characters and audience. How utterly tiresome.

It’s not the fault of the cast, or really even the writers, it’s just a doomed prospect. If you’re going to so blatantly try to remake a successful show, you need to be not just better, but in a different league to make people forgive you for the lack of originality. Slapping us around the face with a drawn out and shallow high school metaphor isn’t enough for us to get over the craving to just go back and watch Grey’s again. It’s a shame, because the cast deserve better – Mamie Gummer has great potential and deserves far more than having to stare into space vacantly while her voice-over fills us in on the unfairness of life or about how “carressable” the jaw is of someone who’s no McDreamy.

Emily Owens, MD was cancelled after 6 episodes after only generating an audience too low for even The CW. I guess it had slightly more potential that Do No Harm, there was a possibility of finding an audience of teenagers/early twenty-somethings who (shudder) are too young to have seen Grey’s Anatomy from the beginning, but it still seemed a bit of a lost cause. Neither The CW, nor NBC had great years last year, far more cancellations than pickups, and it’s these kind of embarrassingly fast cancellations that not only pile on the pressure for the new season, but actually scare viewers off watching anything until it’s well established. Why bother giving pilots a chance if they’re going to be this bad?


One thought on “Pilot Reviews: Do No Harm and Emily Owens, MD

  1. Pingback: 2012-2013 Freshman Class | Narrative Devices

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