Beginning tonight, NBC has a prime-time lineup of spies, heroes and antiheroes – in that order. But where the familiar shows fit nicely together (Chuck is fanciful and Heroes is fantastic, in the fantasy sense), the new My Own Worst Enemy takes its comic-book premise very seriously, and asks viewers to do the same.
The program, premiering at 10 ET, stars Christian Slater as a superspy in the 007 mold whom they “retire,” between missions, by downloading into his brain a wholly concocted other identity and set of memories. So part of the time he’s Edward, trotting the globe and seducing and killing women the same night – and the rest of the time he’s Henry, an executive with a family life and a nice suburban house.
One thing Henry and Edward have in common is that they’re both surrounded by terrific women, some of my favorite TV actresses. On the spy side, his boss is Alfre Woodard. At home, his wife is Madchen Amick. And in between, his therapist is Saffron Burrows from Boston Legal. That’s three good reasons to watch. Add Slater in his first starring TV role, and that’s four. Or five.
But the absurdity of the premise, and what’s done with it in the premiere episode, is too much to chew, much less swallow. If the government could download different memories, identities and skill sets into people, wouldn’t they put them to a lot better use than creating a secret identity when others have no problem tracking him down? And when one side starts learning about the other, how long can the premise hold?
Chuck takes a somewhat similar idea – a nerd’s brain receives an accidental download of top-secret material, making him an instant spy asset – and plays it for laughs. Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse, coming in midseason, features a similar mind-wipe premise, but, I’m guessing, will do a lot more with the idea than My Own Worst Enemy.
This NBC drama might improve, but the opener makes all the wrong moves. For now, I’m of two minds about My Own Worst Enemy – and neither mind is very impressed.