US crits on “Worst Enemy” and “Mentalist”
How will the reception for new dramas by Christian Slater and Simon Baker affect their chances on Seven and Nine?
Christian Slater’s new drama for NBC, My Own Worst Enemy, is high stakes for the network, which will need a breakout hit in the Fall Season.
Despite early clips disappointing critics in July, there has been much movement behind the scenes. Now a first episode screener is hitting critics, and The Hollywood Reporter’s James Hibberd likes what he sees.
The episode is a snappily written, fast-paced thriller that shows Slater can be a — and I’m really trying to avoid using the word “surprisingly” here — likable TV star. He plays Edward/Henry, an assassin whose personality has been split by the government agency that employs him. When active, he’s a superspy. When switched off, he’s a suburban dad.
The story tracks what happens when domesticated manager consultant Henry suddenly wakes up while, for example, attempting an assassination in Moscow. Or salacious psychopath Edward awakes in bed with Henry’s unsuspecting wife. If all this sounds like it could be fun, well, that’s what the promos haven’t shown you and the pilot surprisingly (damn) does.
The episode is smartly directed by David Semel (who shot the first episodes of NBC’s “Heroes,” “Life” and A&E’s “The Cleaner”), who adds some cool moments here — Henry, shell-shocked, during his “first” gunbattle, then, later, drunkenly exploring his newly discovered alter-ego’s apartment.
It’s also nice to see NBC breaking open the piggy bank. The production values feel like the highest since the “Heroes” pilot. You don’t get the sense that everything was shot on greenscreen and backlot. The editing is terrific, taking some notes from the “Bourne” movies.
Meanwhile Variety isn’t exactly doing any cartwheels over Simon Baker’s The Mentalist.
Brian Lowry writes, Baker does possess a certain roguish charm, and writer Bruno Heller (“Rome”) and pilot-directing guru David Nutter mine that — as well as the central character’s slightly menacing backstory — to try and invest the series with a bit of depth, mostly to little avail……
For the most part, though, “The Mentalist” plays like just another clue-sifting procedural, so forgettable that I had difficulty recalling the particulars of the central case 15 minutes after watching it. The show’s lone distinguishing characteristic stems from the casting of Baker as a latter-day Sherlock Holmes — albeit one who winds up squabbling, in tiresome fashion, with his gender-switched Dr. Watson.
My Own Worst Enemy has been picked up by the Seven Network for screening in Australia while Nine has The Mentalist. Both will air this year.