Television Review: Life - Pilot
by R.J. Carter
Published: September 24, 2007
When police officer Charlie Crews (Damian Lewis) was convicted of a murder he didn't commit, he used his sentence to answer the big questions of life. After twelve years in the penitentiary, Crews was exonerated and released, earning him a $50 million settlement and reinstatement on the force as a detective. Now this Zen-lightened ex-inmate is turning his new perspective into a method of crime solving in the quirky NBC drama, Life.
Crews is something of a time traveler, finding his way in a world with cell phones and the Internet, which gives the show a vibe like The Pretender.
Crews is partnered with detective Dani Reese (Sarah Shahi) who is saddled with all kinds of personal problems, the latest of which is Crews. She doesn't want to be partnered with him -- but then, nobody on the force does. Despite his exoneration, the cops still don't like him, and Crews seems to show an empathy for those locked up on the inside, even to the point of making sure that some low-level criminals don't end up there.
Life Partners. Reese and Crews observe a
prison yard. (L-R: Shahi, Lewis)
Case in point: As Crews and Reese interview the father of a murder victim, Crews smells marijuana and advises the father to flush his stash before the uniformed cops show up to toss the place for evidence. This infuriates Reese, and it's just the kind of thing Lt. Davis (Robin Weigert) has told her to watch for in order to build a case for kicking Crews back off the force. With a $50 million settlement, Davis can't think of a good reason Crews would want to be a cop, except to seek revenge against whomever set him up.
The only friends Crews has are his attorney, Constance Griffiths (Brooke Langton), and his live-in financial advisor, Ted Earley (Adam Arkin). Ted has also been recently released from prison for insider trading, and Crews saved his life once while they were both inside. But Crews does at least earn Reese's begrudging respect, much to the consternation of Davis.
While Crews seems to be all Zen-lightened from his experience in prison, he hasn't quite emotionally let go of everything. For instance, he enjoys pulling over his ex-wife's new husband for minor traffic infractions, and when Constance lets him know his father is getting remarried, he's adamant about not going to the wedding. According to Crews, his father is marrying a child; he's marrying a child because his mother died; his mother died because his father wouldn't let her come see him in prison. Constance replies, "So, no Zen for daddy?" "No Zen for daddy," Charlie agrees.
The final proof that Charlie Crews hasn't let go of his anger at being wrongfully imprisoned is the closing scene of this pilot episode, which provides an intriguing look into his private life, in a very Profit-like moment that adds a new layer of depth to his philosophy of interconnectedness in all things.
Created by Rand Ravich ("The Astronautís Wife"), Far Shariat ("Confessions of a Dangerous Mind"), and David Semel (Heroes), Life has the right amount of oddness to appeal to fans of Monk, and the right amount of stimulating subplots to appeal to serial mystery lovers. However, it takes a bit of a commitment from the viewer to get the whole picture from the pilot episode, which slows down in places when we get biopic-like interview segments from characters giving their thoughts about Charlie Crews' release from prison, and what kind of man he was before he went in.
Life premieres September 26 on NBC at 10:00pm, 9:00pm CST.
Read our complete look at the Fall TV season at Network Programming Falls Into Place for 2007/08 Television Viewing Season