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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2008-2009 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot - or in this new post-strike/straight-to-series world, reading the pilot script. We'll start with the ones that were actually filmed and move on to the others in the coming weeks.
With that in mind, it's even more important to remember that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. Plus: as an added bonus, we've got a backlog of passed over pilots - some from this season, some from last season - we'll be tackling as well. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
MY OWN WORST ENEMY (NBC)
(written by Jason Smilovic; 72 pages)
The network's description: "Henry Spivey (Christian Slater, "Bobby") is a middle-class efficiency expert living a humdrum life in the suburbs with a wife, two kids, a dog, and a minivan. Edward Albright is an operative who speaks 13 languages, runs a four-minute mile, and is trained to kill with his teeth. Henry and Edward are polar opposites who share only one thing in common -- the same body. When the carefully constructed wall between them breaks down, Henry and Edward are thrust into unfamiliar territory where each man is dangerously out of his element. "My Own Worst Enemy" explores the duality of a man who is literally pitted against himself. And it raises the question: who can you trust when you can't trust yourself? The series is produced by Universal Media Studios. Jason Smilovic ("Kidnapped") is the executive producer; David Semel (director of the "American Dreams," "Heroes" and "Life" pilots) is the director and executive producer."
What did they leave out: GM signed a sponsorship deal with NBC so that Henry and Edward each drive different GM cars. The script mentions that Edward drives a 1968 Shelby GT500 although one assumes this will be changed to a modern GM model.
The plot in a nutshell: "My name is Edward. By now, you've forgotten all about me... You need to listen very carefully to what I'm about to say," explains Edward Albright (Christian Slater). And with that we meet our hero - an ass-kicking, name-taking spy for a top-secret program dubbed Janus. His latest mission is to find Uzi Kafelnikov, a Russian gangster who's in possession of something called "Fainberg's Marbles." Edward is ruthless in his pursuit, as he doesn't even bat an eye after being forced to kill one of his Russian contacts... shortly after bedding her. Left with no other leads, Edward returns home to HQ where he finds an unhappy boss, Mavis Heller (yet to be cast), and an even unhappier girlfriend, Norah Skinner (Saffron Burrows). Nevertheless, it's time for Edward to resume his cover - that of the mild-mannered Henry Spivey. It's a process (known as an Engram Session) that involves Henry being strapped to a chair, pumped full of drugs and shown images of what "Henry" was up to during the time Edward was in control. You see, unlike Edward, Henry is a consummate family man with a wife (Yara Martinez) and two kids (Dash and Ruthy, yet to be cast), works as an efficiency expert for AJ Sun (flip the letters of each word to get the joke) with his best friend Tom Grady (Mike O'Malley), gets nose bleeds at high altitudes and abhors violence. It's the latter trait that upsets his son as Henry backs down from the taunts of the resident loudmouth dad after one of Dash's soccer games. It's a trait that troubles Henry as well, since his dreams as of late seem to suggest he's capable of being an ass-kicking, name-taking spy. He's gone so far as to see a psychiatrist about it... a psychiatrist named Norah Skinner. She dismisses them as flights of fancy, until Henry discovers he's carrying a matchbook from a Paris restaurant he's never been to. And that's just the beginning - during his next "trip," Edward gets captured by the aforementioned Uzi and is tortured, torture which accidentally triggers Henry to take over. And the overload continues when Henry gets rescued by Raymond... better known to Henry as Tom Grady. Left with no other option, Mavis decides to let Henry in on the big secret - Henry's simply a cover created to keep Edward's secrets safe. All Henry's memories - of his mom dying when he was four, of losing his virginity to Sally Reckhard, all of it - are fake. Or as Raymond puts it, "Same hardware. Different operating systems." But now that Henry is aware of Edward, a new status quo will have to be reached. But before that can happen, there's a little problem involving Uzi - while being tortured, Henry unwittingly mentioned that he wasn't Edward but Henry Spivey, efficiency expert for AJ Sun.
What works: The show's "Jekyll/Hyde"-esque concept proves to be as clever as advertised in that it's really not "Jekyll" and "Hyde" at all. Despite their distinct personality traits, Henry and Edward aren't really competing personalities, they're actually complementary. By the end of the pilot it's clear that Edward and Henry need each other - the former as protector and the latter as something to protect. It's an interesting twist, one that leaves lots of uncharted territory to explore - especially as their worlds start to overlap. There's also an unexpectedly strong theme of sacrifice running through the show as Edward, Raymond and even Mavis all made a hard choice for God and country - one that involves giving up knowing about the very things they are fighting for. That, packaged with an "Alias"-esque mythology (I wonder how "Fainberg's Marbles" will tie into Rambaldi) and a fun sense of humor (Edward on France: "God created the most beautiful place on earth, and then he put the French there to even things out."), and you have the makings of one of the fall's most promising series.
What doesn't: "Enemy's" script was a really clean read - it now falls to director David Semel, Slater, O'Malley and company to sell it. It will be interesting to see how the actors with double-sided characters approach their dual roles. In any case...
The bottom line: ...I'm excited to see the end result.