My Own Worst Enemy has the sort of intriguing high-concept that immediately captures my interest. Edward is a Jason Bourne-style super-spy who can kill bad guys with ease, while Henry is a nice family man whose biggest worry is getting his kids to school on time. In a Jekyll and Hyde-inspired twist, Edward and Henry are two personalities occupying the same body, with both played by Christian Slater. The setup sounds like Alias crossed with BBC’s Jekyll series, which should make for one fascinating television show.
Unfortunately, the pilot of My Own Worst Enemy, which airs tonight at 10pm on NBC, doesn’t live up to the greatness of its concept. The first episode sells the silly premise well enough, but it lacks the depth to make viewers care about either of Christian Slater’s two personalities.
The series, which is from executive producers John Eisendrath (Alias) and Jason Smilovic (Bionic Woman), starts by filling us in on how Edward/Henry came to be. A shady government organization headed up by Mavis Heller (Alfre Woodard, slumming it in a thankless role) scientifically induced the split personality, thus allowing them to toggle between kick-ass Edward and meek Henry whenever they please. The fun starts when the switch goes haywire and the personalities start showing up at inopportune times. Henry wakes up and discovers he’s in a foreign country waiting to assassinate someone, while Edward unexpectedly finds himself in bed with Henry’s wife, Angie (Madchen Amick). One would think Mavis would automatically have Edward/Henry killed after he goes haywire, but if she followed logic we wouldn’t have much of a show.
With it’s somewhat sci-fi concept and wacky spy shenanigans, it’s hard not to compare My Own Worst Enemy to the far superior Alias. While the pilot of Alias looked ready for the big screen thanks to J.J. Abrams being at the helm, director David Semel fails to inject My Own Worst Enemy with a similar sense of scope. The action never pops, scenes often feel confusing and disjointed, and some truly terrible slo-mo makes a few moments laughable when they should be thrilling. Semel also helmed the pilot of Heroes, which had a similar all over the place feel before coming together later in its first season.
The main reason to watch My Own Worst Enemy, aside from the hope that it’ll eventually live up to its concept, is for Christian Slater’s performance. The actor is believable as both a capable spy and a friendly family man, and it’s obvious that Slater is having a lot of fun in the role. I doubt his work will win over anyone who’s not already a fan, but it’s a treat to see the actor tackling two characters in one.
My Own Worst Enemy may not be off to a great start, but it certainly has the potential to become a fun spy drama with a few tweaks. I can deal with a preposterous premise, but the show needs the clever writing, stellar action and excellent production values to back it up. For a series that’s run by people who used to work on Alias and Bionic Woman, I’m afraid that My Own Worst Enemy resembles more of the latter than the former. Let’s hope the showrunners get their act together before the series goes the way of that misbegotten Bionic reboot.
– Don Williams, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Image courtesy of NBC)