NBC’s New Do No Harm Showcases Philadelphia

The plot is ridiculous. The leading man is a bit much. But the script is way more clever than it has any right to be.

In the first scene of Do No Harm, we learn a few things about Dr. Jason Cole. He has an alarm set on his watch for 8:25 p.m. He’s a surgeon. He’s diabetic, testing his glucose levels before performing surgery. He shrugs off the pessimistic attitude of a colleague—”Let’s call housekeeping and have them stick a Hoover in this guy,” the downbeat doc says—and saves a man’s life.

In the second scene of Do No Harm, Jason’s boss (played by Claire Huxtable herself, Phylicia Rashād) offers him “Diamond Club seats for tonight’s Phillies game.” He demurs, but is told that just because his diabetes prevents him from working at night doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy great seats to the Phils. Jason gives the tickets to one of the hospital’s janitors.

“I thought you loved the Phillies!” the janitor says.

“I do!” Jason replies. “I just can’t enjoy the night games. I’m just not myself.”

Dr. Cole might as well have put on sunglasses, Horatio Caine-style. Yes, the plot of Do No Harm is essentially 2013 Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Dr. Cole could once control his alter-ego, Mr. Ian Price, with a drug, but his alter has developed an immunity over the last five years. He’s now free to cause trouble for Dr. Cole after 8:25 p.m. every night.

Do No Harm‘s plot is ridiculous, and Dr. Jason Cole (Steven Pasquale, best known as Sean Garrity on Rescue Me) still seems to be finding his way as a leading man in the pilot. For locals, though, it’s worth watching for Philadelphia alone.

This isn’t some sort of Cold Case scenario where there are only a very limited number of exteriors filmed here. Do No Harm is like Hack, shot and set right here in Philadelphia.

As you might remember, I’m a bit obsessed with movies set in Philadelphia. Yes, that extends to television shows, and I’ve seen everything from Amen to Philly to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I’ve seen enough Boy Meets World to be somewhat baffled by the intensity of the nostalgia some feel for it. And watching Do No Harm was a treat.

You see this shot? That’s 2036 Delancey Place—a steal at $5.3 million—which was also seen in the Philly-shot pilot Outlaw, which had a plot much more ridiculous than Do No Harm: Supreme Court justice Cyrus Garza quits because he thinks he can do more as a lawyer for the little guy. (If you’re counting, I’m pretty sure it’s also in the movies The Best and the Brightest and How Do You Know, but I believe this is the first time it’s been used as a Philadelphia exterior instead of a stand-in for New York or D.C.)

I’m sure I’m the only dork charting when certain houses show up in cinema, but there are loads of shots of Philadelphia in the pilot of Do No Harm.

See? Chestnut Hill East station! Can’t you just feel the civic pride?

What’s nice about this show is how clever the writing is. The show does a surprisingly strong job of weaving the split-personality silliness with the standard medical drama. In the pilot Cole has two major patient dilemmas, and somehow he manages to solve both with the use of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He’s split-personality MacGyver!

That might get old if that’s how every episode goes—or it might not, MacGyver was awesome—but for now I think it’s worth watching. Yes, this isn’t great drama—”You found a drug to lock up your alter, but you’re the one who’s a prisoner,” Cole’s therapist says at one point—but who cares? It’s TV. It’s fun. It’s watchable.

Do No Harm airs tomorrow night at 10 p.m. on NBC. The pilot is available to watch online now.