Watching the premiere of My Own Worst Enemy — NBC’s Christian-Slater-has-a-split-personality drama — I finally understood how audience testing could screw a pilot: If I were holding a dial that measured how much I liked each moment of the hour, the results would look hillier than San Francisco. (Read EW TV critic Ken Tucker’s official C+ review of the show here.) First episodes are always tricky because large amounts of exposition can be tiresome. Make it a high-concept show that can’t actually tell you anything (at least not until the final minutes), and it can be even more frustrating because you’re constantly wondering if the payoff will be worth the wait… Without someone like Slater in the lead(s), I wouldn’t have had the patience. But I’m glad he got me to stick around. And he’ll keep me coming back.
The first moment that got me to sit up in my seat, and do one of those surprised-me! coughs you always see in movies, was, of course, when Edward, Slater’s secret agent personality, shot (in the head) the woman he’d just bedded after she tried to kill
the pillows him. I wrote “KINDA AWESOME” in my notes, but I think that’s just because I’m sick of seeing women in their bras and/or panties in pilots this fall (Fringe, Eleventh Hour), and because after Edward uttered a line like, “Don’t let an act of deception turn into an act of self-deception,” I was craving violence. The moment I decided to give this series a serious chance, however, was when Mavis (Alfre Woodard), the boss of Edward’s LA-based super-secret agency, told his alter-ego Henry, the suburban dad, that Henry was the personality that had been manufactured. Now the mystery is (A) Why would Edward sign up for this “program” (and don’t feed me that bullcrap about doing it because you don’t want to, to prove free will), (B) why does this program even exist (I’m guessing it’s not because big bads, like this episode’s Uzi, are all so willing to accept that the man who’s been hunting them for 10 years is actually two people), and (C) why can’t Henry be erased from Edward’s mind (does Edward not want to let him go)?
Now that Henry is aware of Edward, the fun should begin in earnest, meaning we won’t have to sit through another scene of Henry not understanding why he’s being tortured and screaming “Don’t you think I’d remember that [trying to kill you slowly]?” when a normal person would be yelling, “But I’m an [insert occupation]!” Instead, we’ll just get Henry trying not to get killed when he awakens in Edward’s world, and, fingers crossed, judging him some more. That “What a dick” line when Henry first stumbled into Edward’s walk-in closet was classic. And we’ll see Edward slapping the ass of Henry’s wife and satisfying her so much sexually that she comes to rival Rachael Ray in the kitchen (cooking breakfast is her way of saying thank you and wow).
So, did the pilot do enough to hook you? What’s your early theory about “the program?” And do you prefer scenes with Henry, Edward, or Hedward (when they’re communicating important information, like “There’s a difference between driving somebody’s car and driving somebody’s wife” through taped messages)?
More on ‘My Own Worst Enemy’:
Ken Tucker’s official EW review of ‘My Own Worst Enemy’
The inside skinny on ‘My Own Worst Enemy’
‘My Own Worst Enemy’ casting scoops!
Our initial impressions of ‘My Own Worst Enemy’ pilot footage from July’s TCA press-tour panel