October 10, 2008 / 4:38 AM / 10 years ago

Christian Slater oddly intriguing in "Worst Enemy"

My Own Worst Enemy , 10-11 p.m., NBC)

Actor Christian Slater, star of the series "My Own Worst Enemy," speaks to television critics at the NBC Universal Summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California, July 21, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The proverb says you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer. But what about when friend and enemy is one and the same — and both happen to be you?

Such is the beguiling question at the heart of “My Own Worst Enemy,” a new NBC drama that hits the ground feeling at once vague and oddly captivating. It also brings to network primetime the (diminished?) star power of one Christian Slater, a dude who has had more than a passing acquaintance with the concept of being his own worst enemy.

But any jokes aside, Slater delivers the goods with heaping helpings of magnetism along with his trademark quirky intensity, portraying two men trapped in a single man’s body with a measure of credibility. That doesn’t necessarily explain why each of his dual personalities often is so difficult to isolate and identify at any given moment, but perhaps that’s designed to keep the audience off balance.

In creator/executive producer Jason Smilovic’s taut opening teleplay, we learn that Slater is both Henry Spivey and Edward Albright. Henry is a suburban family man with a wife, two kids, a dog and a minivan. Edward is an undercover operative and killing machine who speaks 13 languages and can hold his breath underwater for five minutes. His brain has been programed to keep this schizophrenic reality at bay, but in the premiere the mechanism malfunctions, and Henry/Edward plummets into a war pitting him against himself. His tough-as-nails boss (Alfre Woodard) and best pal Tom (Mike O’Malley of “Yes, Dear” in a winning dramatic turn) do their best to fix the break but seem initially powerless to keep Henry/Edward’s dual personality from regularly thrusting him into situations he’s psychologically ill-equipped to handle. Think George Costanza if his brain got crossed with Jack Bauer.

If this all sounds spectacularly, absurdly far-fetched, well duh! But “My Own Worst Enemy” holds our interest despite its utter preposterousness because if there is anything Slater knows how to do, it’s present a believable head case. And if you check that disbelief at the door, it’s possible to foresee an intriguing journey of internal anguish in the weeks ahead.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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