My Own Worst Enemy: Greetings and Salutations, and Cancellations

Time has passed, and I’m still bitter about NBC’s cancellation of My Own Worst Enemy. Oh, I know most of you didn’t like it, or stopped watching, or figured Heroes is so awful, anything that follows it has to be terrible too. But I must disagree with you. Sure, it was a little slow and had plot holes worthy of Fringe, but it also had Christian SlaterHeathers-style Christian Slater. Which is like, cool Christian Slater times ten.

The premise! One day, Henry Spivey wakes up to realize he is the fictional alter ego of super-spy Edward Albright. Janus, a CIA-like organization that saves the world, inserted a chip into Edward’s brain years ago, granting them the ability to put Edward to sleep and activate his cover, Henry, and vice versa. When the chip breaks and Henry and Edward switch places uncontrollably, Henry enters the world of super-spy, and Edward enters the world of mundane suburban father and husband. They must hide Edward’s malfunction or the bosses at Janus will terminate him. Doesn’t that just scream fun?

The execution! Not bad. The way NBC hyped the show during the Olympics, I expected MOWE to be more involved, high tech, and realistic, but instead we have a watered-down spy drama, or what I like to call the Xena/Hercules version of spy television. Don’t tune in for a realistic premise, but stick around for the crazy characters.

And what a cast. First of all: Alfre Woodard. How any of you could change the channel knowing Alfre Woodard would be gracing the screen is beyond my powers of comprehension. The woman elevates every part she plays and the actors who share the screen with her. She’s amazing. I could go on for days. Surprisingly, Mike O’Malley as Tom/Raymond, Henry’s best friend and Edward’s partner, displays the kind of depth you just couldn’t see when he was on Yes, Dear. He capitalizes on his dual roles, handling them seamlessly as Tom’s wife suspects him of cheating, when Raymond’s actually out on assignment. This storyline would typically drag down the lead character, but the writers smartly give it to Tom/Raymond to play out without distracting us from the Henry/Edward dynamic.

Which leads us to Christian Slater, and let me start by saying, I had my doubts about the return of the 80s heartthrob. I was skeptical even about putting it in my TiVo’s To Do List, forget about watching it. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong. On the one hand, we have lame, Broken Arrow Henry, and on the other, we have ultra-cool Pump Up the Volume Edward. Say what you will about MOWE, but there’s no denying Slater easily carries the show, as he smoothly and deftly switches from one character to the other. Henry and Edward are two distinct personalities, and Slater clearly defines both.

The only misstep: Saffron Burrows. I just watched The Bank Job (Jason Statham is still hot, America), where she sucked the energy from every scene. She’s worse here. For one thing, the stylist who gave her bangs. For another, could she be any more bland? I can’t figure how she caught Edward’s attention, but maybe that would have been explored in Season 2. Still, dead weight.

As for the writing, I’m willing to overlook the plot holes and silly premise goofs. For example, all this hiding the fact that Edward is broken to keep the agency from terminating him, seems a bit ridiculous. Every mission Edward engages in becomes a potential catastrophe, in the event that Henry might inadvertently wake up and jeopardize Edward’s life and the mission’s success. By terminating broken Edward, the world would be safer. Of course, then we’d have no show, and if NBC had asked me, I’d have voted for outrageous premises.

However, the writers come through strongly on character development. Henry’s whining pushed the limit, but the Henry/Edward dynamic, and Henry’s dealing with the idea that he doesn’t, in fact, exist, made a generic action show interesting. Edward’s realization that he may have given up a normal life, that he may have wanted a normal life, lends depth to your typical action hero. The dark side and the light, forced to work together, and forced to hurt each other to keep each side in line. Honestly, what else was on television that you all were watching at 10pm on Mondays that could beat that?

And now where are we? With a cliffhanger that’s as unsatisfying as the unresolved finale of the NBC series Night Court (way to go again, NBC). Tom’s wife just watched as Tom/Raymond shoots a man in cold blood, Tony’s found dead (Tony! No!), and Janus shuts down as someone knows about Henry/Edward’s secret and doesn’t want him fixed. Who could it be? Why did they kill Tony (sad, but awesome)? Why did NBC think that five nights a week of Jay Leno is better than taking a chance on a show that is actually entertaining?

Answers to questions that we’ll never have. As if canceling Scrubs didn’t have me angry with the Peacock Network already. Thank goodness for ABC.

My Own Worst Enemy, as any show, suffered from a few faults, but had more positives going for it than most shows. Unfortunately, we’re left with another example of networks cutting shows long before they’ve had a chance to truly develop. Fox took a chance on Fringe, giving it longer airtime and a decent weekly time slot. While Fringe has the potential to be very interesting, MOWE already is. Or was. There goes another good one. Try it on DVD. Or don’t. NBC doesn’t care.

My Own Worst Enemy, NBC (Fall 2008)

For more on My Own Worst Enemy, click here.

Photographs courtesy of NBC.

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