Christian Slater’s Jack Nicholson shtick hasn’t been very much in evidence lately, but neither has Slater himself: Recently, his résumé has been dominated by straight-to-video fare, animation voices and the occasional guest role on a TV hit. But the actor’s snark—and the sensitivity he developed to forestall typecasting—both get a healthy workout in My Own Worst Enemy, a slick spy drama with shades of both Alias and 24.
Slater is introduced as Edward Albright, a hard-drinking horndog assassin for a secret U.S. government outfit. But Edward is basically a weapon that gets put back in the box after each assignment: He lives most of his life as Henry Spivey, a traveling business consultant with a family in the burbs and no clue that Edward exists.
If you picked up on how Slater’s names salute Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, give yourself a gold star. Much as the barrier between man and monster eventually blurred in the Robert Louis Stevenson story, Edward begins waking up next to Henry’s wife while Henry finds himself flailing in the field with no idea how to use a sniper rifle.
Edward’s foes in the pilot are ex-Soviets, and the series riffs cleverly on how the fall of Communism changed Hollywood’s rules for Russian villains, as well as how brutal covert action can seem to the average Joe. The supporting players—including Alfre Woodard as Henry’s boss and comedian Mike O’Malley as another schizo-agent—are cast against type with great success (though it’s a shame Mädchen Amick’s role as Henry’s wife may limit her Gossip Girl availability). If you wanted an excuse not to change the channel after Heroes, NBC now has you covered.