Stay Tuned
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Sunday, October 12, 2008

“My Own Worst Enemy” Review: Its Own Worst Enemy?

So here’s a question. Is it bad for a show when you get tired of its entire premise before the end of the first episode?

My guess is yes.

But sadly, that’s kind of the way I felt about “My Own Worst Enemy.” And if I’m not the only one who feels that way, then the show could turn out to be its own worst enemy…

The premise is that a secret government agency recruited a man named Edward Albright (Christian Slater) to carry out covert missions. To keep him safe, they created a new identity for him. But instead of just having Edward play the other identity, they actually implanted it as a chip in Edward’s brain. When his mission is done, they turn Edward off and family man Henry takes over. Edward knows all about Henry, but Henry knows nothing of Edward.

That is, until something goes wrong and Henry shows up in the middle of a covert operation, which eventually forces him to come to terms with the fact that he is not a real person. And maybe Edward is wishing he was more of a real person as well…

It seems like a clever concept, but the truth is you’ll just want all the switching to stop because you won’t care about Henry. Sure he’s got a wife and two kids, but once you realize he’s not real, you just don’t care anymore. Part of that is because Edward is more interesting, but part of it is also because Slater makes very little distinction between the two. Or maybe it’s just that he’s not convincing as a family man.

And after the last switch—which requires a huge suspension of disbelief—you’ll be left wondering what the whole point is anymore. Are we supposed to believe that Edward is jealous of Henry’s life and is going to fight for more time? Or should we really not try too hard to analyze them so much because the show won’t go that deep anyway?

Henry does have a psychiatrist (Saffron Burrows), but since I presume she’s on the agency’s payroll anyway, those scenes are really just a waste of time.

The real star for me is not Slater, but Mike O’Malley, who plays Raymond/Tom, a fellow dual-life agent. Since O’Malley is best known for comedy (“Yes, Dear”), I really thought this was a miscast. But he’s fantastic and actually does a better job than Slater of separating the personalities.

Alfre Woodard is also solid as Mavis, the head of the program. Woodard was a late addition to the show, but she’s a good one as she plays the cold-hearted witch perfectly.

As I said before, it’s a clever concept, it just gets a little tired. I would rather see a show where the operative actually had to play the family man. But then you couldn’t show him having sex with sexy international spies and no network’s going to give that up.

Since there was a lot of reworking of the pilot, the show may actually get into a groove on down the road. But I must admit, I won’t be there to find out…

“My Own Worst Enemy” premieres Monday, October 13th at 10 p.m. on NBC…

Photo Credit: Mitchell Haaseth/NBC