One would think that only UPN and the WB could so easily botch a promising idea, but with its new amnesiac drama, “John Doe,” FOX has unmistakably done it. It is not implausible to pull off a ridiculous concept, but when that concept is escorted along by trite dialogue and remarkable overacting, there isn’t much hope.

Paul Wong
Courtesy of FOX
Please, let my show not be cancelled.

The premise behind “John Doe” is this: A mysterious (and naked) man arises from the primordial waters off a remote island, possessing knowledge of literally everything in the world, yet having no memory of who he is. He quickly realizes this after being discovered by a fishing vessel and is able to converse fluently with the men in a strange foreign language, but is unable to tell him anything about himself.

By and by, while the idea seems farfetched, it has potential. Until this mysterious man assumes the identity of one ‘John Doe,’ predicts which horse will win every race at the track based on statistical probabilities and begins using his gift to solve crimes. What begins as a dark and enjoyable mystery makes itself over into yet another tiring detective series in a landscape that’s already overcrowded with bad crime shows.

In a role that makes Hannibal Lecter seem subtle, Dominic Purcell (“Mission Impossible II”) plays John Doe with astonishing abandon, uttering meaningless pontifications to hot-dog vendors like “I don’t know the things I’m supposed to know, but I know the things I’m not supposed to.” For no apparent reason other than to showcase his newfound intelligence, we see Doe in a series of unrealistic settings, blazing through random questions about everything from Apple Jacks’ ingredients to South American populations. (In another display of unnecessary self-indulgence, Doe cranks out crossword puzzles as he successfully answers Jeopardy questions).

As Doe spouts arbitrary information to anyone within earshot, he is joined by Karen Kawalski (Sprague Grayden), his unwitting assistant and one of his few friends; Digger (William Forsythe), a Seattle bar owner who in the pilot episode may or may not have given John a job playing piano in his bar; and detective Frank Hayes (John Marshall Jones), who seemingly requires assistance in order to solve any case.

None of these supporting characters are actually introduced; they kind of just show up when convenient. Much like the show itself, they just flutter around in the background without much explanation while John Doe does his thing, all in attempt to uncover the truth about who he is and where he came from. But the real question seems not to be ‘Who is John Doe?’ but ‘Who cares?’

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *