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Pull the plug!

Dreadful series needs to be put out of its misery

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In addition to being the title of a TV show, it's also a timeless credo to which all physicians are expected to adhere:

Do No Harm.

And quite frankly, it's a piece of advice that television network programmers would do well to heed, as well -- as in, "Do no harm to your prime-time schedule by adding really bad shows to it," or "Do no harm to your relationship with viewers by insulting their intelligence with clumsy, stupid material."

Or, in suddenly successful NBC's case, "Do no harm to your newly reclaimed and wholly unexpected No. 1 spot in the ratings race by introducing ill-conceived mid-season series that are destined to fail quickly and catastrophically."

And because the advice has been ignored, it's a safe bet that Do No Harm will do some harm to NBC's ratings and reputation. Simply put, it's a terrible, dumb, badly executed show.

Do No Harm is a modern-day spin on the Jekyll-and-Hyde concept that focuses on the disordered personalities of Dr. Jason Cole (Steven Pasquale), a highly respected neurosurgeon who has, for at least half a decade, been hiding a dark secret from his co-workers and bosses.

Unless he keeps it in check by using powerful and illegally obtained sedatives, an alternate personality -- a toxic, trouble-seeking misfit who calls himself Ian Price -- takes control of his body for 12 hours out of every 24.

The good news is that Jason has been able to drug his dark-side alter ego into submission for several years; the bad news is that Ian seems to have developed an immunity to the medication and has re-emerged, angry and bent on punishing Jason for keeping him locked away.

Like clockwork, at 8:25 p.m., Ian will take over. And at 8:25 a.m., control of the body will be returned to Jason.

One would think that the re-emergence of Dr. Cole's version of Mr. Hyde would have immediate and dire consequences -- you know, the kind of reactions that would follow terrorizing and sexually assaulting a co-worker, beating the spouse of a patient half to death, or turning up in the OR for a late-scheduled brain surgery while behaving like a crazed madman.

But in Do No Harm's wacked-out world, everyone seems completely willing to forgive and/or ignore Jason's erratic behaviour because, well, he's such a nice guy when he's not being a totally evil and violent guy.

It's completely implausible, and so clumsily portrayed that it's actually irksome to watch. Do No Harm's producers exhibit such a complete disregard for viewers' intellect that it's likely that those who sample this show will move quickly past simply annoyed and into feeling angry at being insulted in such an obvious and hamhanded manner.

Yes, it's that bad. And as such, it's hard to imagine that a show like this will do anything but harm the prime-time prospects of the networks that carry it.

-- -- --

30 Rock reminisces: It's curtains for TGS, and the final farewell for 30 Rock, too, so expect a seamless mix of emotions and giggles when the NBC sitcom's hour-long finale airs (Thursday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m.).

Since its arrival in the fall of 2006, the Tina Fey-created comedy has remained something of a ratings underdog despite continuing critical praise and armfuls of awards (including three Emmys for outstanding comedy series).

30 Rock was one of two show-within-a-show concepts introduced by NBC in 2006 -- the other being the Aaron Sorkin-produced drama Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which received far more media attention and network promotional support than Fey's effort but lasted less than a season.

In its original incarnation, Fey had former SNL castmate Rachel Dratch playing the fictional sketch-comedy show's troublesome lead; the hiring of Jane Krakowski to portray Jenna Maroney upped the stakes of the Liz Lemon/Jenna conflict and altered the chemistry of the show in a way that made it much more palatable to viewers.

After a slow-ish start, 30 Rock hit its stride, and its clever and unflinching skewering of the network-TV business gave series co-star Alec Baldwin (as smoothly egotistical network boss Jack Donaghy) a chance to showcase his comedic abilities in a way only a few guest-hosting stints on Saturday Night Live had allowed him to do.

Before long, 30 Rock became one of the cool places for actors and assorted other celebrities to be, with a long list of guest players signing on for one-off or recurring roles. The roster has included Jon Hamm, Will Arnett, Nathan Lane, Isabella Rossellini, Jerry Seinfeld, Edie Falco, Steve Martin, Julianne Moore, Matt Damon, James Franco, Susan Sarandon, Jon Bon Jovi, Al Gore, Tom Hanks and even Oprah Winfrey.

The series finale will find Liz struggling with her new role as mom to a pair of adopted youngsters (who bear an eerie resemblance to Jenna and Tracy (Tracy Morgan), the TGS stars she's spent the last half-decade babysitting), while Jack reassesses his life and former bumbling page Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) settles into his new job as president of NBC.

With Fey in charge of the writing room, there's every reason to believe that 30 Rock's sendoff will be fitting and funny. Twitter: @BradOswald


Do No Harm

Starring Steven Pasquale

Thursday, Jan. 31, at 9 p.m.


1 star out of 5

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 31, 2013 c8

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