February 11, 2009 | Comments ()

By Dustin Rowles | TV | February 11, 2009 |


I got the itch, people. Anybody that spends enough time abusing the flickering idiot box probably knows what I mean. You watch “Lost” because you feel compelled; you watched “The Wire” because it was a need; you watch “Friday Night Lights” because it feels good; but “Life” you watch because of the itch. The last time I had the “itch” was “Veronica Mars.” That was a full-blown venereal, strip-down and bathe in calamine itch. So far, after two episodes (and three if the day goes well), I’ve got a nagging itch to see “Life.” It hasn’t burrowed in yet, but I feel like it might. I want to spend more time with the characters. I want to let the show wash over me a bit. Immerse myself into the storyline.

The truth is, I’d pretty much given up on procedurals after Lenny Briscoe passed. They’re all basically the same show, different gimmick. “Law and Order” was the forerunner — no frills, just the murders please. “CSI” and its many spin-offs rely on the preposterous forensics gimmick, and would have us all believe that the forensics experts also carry weapons and track down criminals. “The Mentalist” added a psychic element (as did “Medium”) and this year’s “Lie to Me” extended the gimmick to lie detection. What they all seem to forget, unfortunately, is that it’s not the gimmick that sells the show, it’s the cases. It’s the characters. “Lie to Me,” for instance, got the characters right, but the cases blow. In fact, not since the “X-Files” — an extraterrestrial procedural — has a show gotten the cases, the gimmick, and the characters so right. “Life” is certainly not in the same category, and given that it’s already ratings-starved and has spent its short life bouncing around the NBC schedule, I doubt it’ll get the chance to really prove itself, but it’s making the most of its opportunity. But fuck NBC for scheduling it up against “Lost.” Of all the weak-ass slots on their primetime schedule, I have no idea why they decided to plop their one quality drama up against a show with a very similar target audience.

Anyway, I should probably note that I didn’t see the show’s pilot, nor have I seen any of the first season episodes. In fact, I only decided to watch a few episodes because our own Brian Prisco has a role in tonight’s episode, so I’ve only seen the most recent two episodes. The gimmick: Charlie Crews (the motherfuckingly splendid Damien Lewis) was wrongfully imprisoned for the triple murder of his wife, son, and business partner that he served 12 years in prison for. After the DA exonerated him through DNA evidence, Crews received a healthy, multimillion dollar settlement from the city of Los Angeles and was reinstated to his old job as a detective on the LAPD. He also gained some freaky Zen insight to the world during his imprisonment. The overarching mystery during the first season of “Life,” I understand, had Crews trying to solve the murders he was framed for. Apparently, the killer was revealed during the season one finale, but the motives were left unclear.

The second season delves a little deeper into the motivations behind the framing, although that mystery didn’t seem to play a particularly large role in the two episodes I saw. But then again I can’t be for sure that the two murder cases he and his partner, Dani Reese (the luminous Sarah Shahi), were investigating were not part of the second seasons’ overarching mystery. For me, I simply found the cases compelling, but more than that, I dig on the vibe between Crews and Dani, and I’m really drawn toward the mysterious subplot involving Crews roommate and best friend, Ted Earley (the phenomenal Adam Arkin, who is always showing up in small, quirky roles in great television shows). Season two also introduced a new character, Captain Kevin Tidwell, who is Crews and Dani’s news commanding officer. He’s played by Donal Logue, and Logue makes life worth living, folks.

In brief: After only two episodes in the middle of the season, no less, I already got the itch. It’s hard to fully explain the itch. It has as much to do with the characters, and Crews in particular (he’s sort of the procedural counterpoint to Hugh Laurie’s character on “House”), as it does the show’s tone — it’s serious, but not heavy; weird but not obnoxiously quirky; amusing but not funny; and accessible but not dumb. It’s just a goddamn shame the show runs up against “Lost,” but if you have a DVR and aren’t watching “Life” yet, give it a shot. And if Damien Lewis isn’t reason enough, then do it to see our boy Prisco in tonight’s episode.

Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. You can email him or leave a comment below

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Zen and the Art of the Scratch

"Life"/ Dustin Rowles

TV | February 11, 2009 | Comments ()




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