Monday, October 13, 2008

Pilot Season: "My Own Worst Enemy"

Oh, now that's a shame.

NBC's new spy show, "My Own Worst Enemy," should be good. It's a great (if outlandish) premise, with good supporting players and wide-open mysteries (which may just be plot holes, but oh, what holes to fill)...all totally undone by the need to hire a big-name "star."

The premise: A spy who willingly split his own personality to hide out in the suburbs as a completely average guy finds the conditioning techniques separating the two personalities is breaking down. Hijinks ensue.

The supporting players: Alfre Fricking Woodard! A fantastic actress, in the shadowy-boss role. (Last year's failed "Bionic Woman" reboot had Miguel Fehrer in the shadowy-boss role, and I maintain that this is the best role for seasoned actors. Victor Garber kicked ass in the role during his time on "Alias." It just looks like a lot of fun, standing around complicated computer devices and being condescending to the leads.)

Wide-open mysteries: Why in the holy living hell would any organization blow billions of dollars to put a top operative (let alone, as the pilot suggests, multiple operatives) under a sleeper program, when...seriously, what the hell would the need for this be? Keeping the operative hidden? The guy is apparently a medal of honor winner. He's hardly a spook.

The answer, of course, is: it's the premise of the show, with it. Everything else is secondary. The pilot delivers no answers, but I'm sure the creators (including producer Jason Smilovic, whose credits include great shows "Kidnapped" and "Karen Sisco," and aforementioned crap show "Bionic Woman," which this one most resembles) have plenty of ideas in their notepads just waiting to be toyed with.

The problems: There are two, so we'll start with the lesser first - the pilot blows its chief gag way too early. Ten minutes in, and we get the joke - superspy and family guy are the same person - but then shit immediately breaks down.
Ideally, the pilot would follow both their lives, concurrently, only letting the two characters realize they're the same person around the last act, creating a hell of a good cliffhanger that would lead into the series proper. It was a stupid move that leads me to suspect this was written as a feature first.

(And it would make a good movie. Or a terrible one, since it feels a lot like the hacky movie pitch featured in Adaptation.)

But nevermind that now, because we've got to deal with Christian Slater.

Somewhere between bad movie choices and certain incidents involving guns and biting ex-girlfriends, Slater's star-power began to dim, making him available for TV roles. So I'm sure when the producers realized they could cast him, they were ecstatic.

Problem is, Christian Slater has only ever played Christian Slater. Asking viewers to accept him in two separate roles, when he can't be bothered to switch up any of his mannerisms, isn't just a problem. It is, in fact, THE problem, and as a result, the show just doesn't work.

A character actor is needed here. An actor who can do two roles: One who thinks this ludicrous scenario as acceptable, and one who thinks it's...well, a ludicrious scenario.Some kind of, say, affordable Paul Giamatti, who can alternate between capable agent and run-of-the-mill everyman, is absolutely essential to sell the premise.

So...not Christian Slater.

It's unfortunate, because this really is a fun, if wholly laughable premise. NBC is currently full of laughable shows (okay, "Knight Rider" and "Heroes"), and it really could've used one that was grounded by a decent enough actor.
If you want to watch a goofy spy show, "Chuck" is still on NBC at 8pm. It's very pleasant, well thought out, has good actors and writers, doesn't try too hard, and could use some viewers. Give that one a go instead.

1 comment:

thechicgeek said...

Speaking of Heroes, I'm still watching it. God knows why. Last night's episode was boring as sin. If you can wrap your head around the plot, which has the main characters switching between good and evil every five seconds, you realize that the show just isn't fun anymore.

Honestly, I think I watch it, because I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'm looking for that revelation from the writing team that the Lost team had that puts this show right on track again.

Sadly, I'm just spinning my wheels, I suppose.