My Own Worst Enemy

The first episode of My Own Worst Enemy is so silly, I’ll bet it’s going to improve greatly. It has to: I refuse to believe that men as talented as executive producers John Eisendrath (Alias), Jason Smilovic (the cruelly underrated Kidnapped), and David Semel (director of the pilots for Heroes and Life) could be in charge of this new spy series and allow it to remain as ridiculous as it starts out. I mean, there’s no way anyone in Enemy is ever again going to utter a line as pretentiously goofy as, ”That?s what we existentialists would call a doozy,” right? Right?

Christian Slater — following the movies-to-TV path set by Kiefer Sutherland, Holly Hunter, and others — stars as Edward, a slick secret agent who beds a beautiful spy in one scene and shoots her in the head in the next. He also stars as Henry, a henpecked dad who makes sheepish calls home from business trips to apologize for missing one of his kids’ soccer games.

Edward and Henry are the same person. A clandestine U.S. government agency scientifically induced a split personality in Edward; the Feds toggle back and forth between his two sides so they can use him for missions and then hide him in suburbia as hapless Henry. His boss is played by Alfre Woodard (crisp enunciator of that ”existentialist” line), who strides around yet another of TV’s sleek-HQ sets, handing out missions and chastising Edward and a guy who serves as both Edward’s tough colleague and Henry’s wisecracking pal (Mike O?Malley, doing a fine job as both, so no more Yes, Dear jokes, please).

Slater plays out spy-story clichés that were campy on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. 40 years ago. (Edward speaks 13 languages! He can hold his breath underwater for five minutes!) To pull off stuff like this, you need to acknowledge that you know it’s been done before, and bring an extra something: not a wink, not irony, but an airy authority that says, ”You ain’t seen it done like I’m gonna do it.” (What do I mean? Go rewatch the pilot for Alias.) Slater is solid: He rarely slips into his Jack Nicholson Jr. voice, and, as timid Henry, does a nice little yelp when he pops a champagne cork that sounds like a gunshot.

But at one point in the premiere, a rattled Henry says to Edward — i.e., himself — ”You bastard! You slept with my wife?!” Many viewers may resume sleeping with CSI: Miami if the smart fellows behind Enemy don’t improve this show. They wouldn’t want that on their conscience, would they? C+

My Own Worst Enemy
  • TV Show