Sunday, November 04, 2007

FBW TV—Choose “Life” on NBC

A quick word here to note that we’ve received word that our grandson Baby T.J. was discharged from the hospital and went home for the first time yesterday—just 11 days, two hospitals and one heart surgery after his birth.

Although little T.J. will require greater than usual medical supervision from here on, we’re all hopeful that after this early heart hiccup that he’ll enjoy a healthy and happy growing up. Thanks to all of you who extended a good thought Baby T.J.’s way during his hour of need.

FanBoyWonder and Mrs. Lovey Wonder will be taking a trip in a couple of weeks to meet our new grandson, as well as to spend quality time with our baby girl Brianna The Girl Wonder, now six-years-old and thrilled to be a big sister.

With that said this is the part where we take apart the latest installment of NBC’s Bionic Woman except that Bionic Woman took the week off—no doubt licking its wounds from the many critical cuts we’ve inflicted in our disappointment with the series to date.

So instead we’ll take this opportunity to comment and review the most recent episode of what’s fast becoming our favorite new series of the new Fall season—Life on NBC, which as luck would have it immediately follows Bionic Woman on Wednesday nights.

This week’s episode of Life was entitled “Powerless.”

Here’s the upshot from NBC: While attending one of her AA meetings, Danni Reese (Sarah Shahi) thinks she hears a fellow attendee confess to rape. Unable to let go of this information, and despite her partner Charlie Crews (Damien Lewis) advice to drop it, Reese becomes preoccupied with getting this individual to confess. Her persistence puts her face to face with a very dangerous man in a life threatening standoff. And, while on a stake out with Lt. Davis (Robin Weigart), Crews learns his former partner, Bobby Stark (Brent Sexton), lied to him about his involvement in an infamous Los Angeles bank robbery years earlier.

We LOVE this show. How much do we like it? We love Life so much that despite the fact that it airs as the same time as South Park (Wednesday at 10 p.m. Eastern), we will skip the first run episode of South Park and either wait for the encore broadcast at Midnight or the next day at 10 p.m. to watch Life.

The show since its pilot episode hasn’t been perfect but the writers are settling into a groove with their storytelling while lead actors Crews and Reese (Damien Lewis and Sarah Shahi) are growing more comfortable with their characters.

Since the pilot episode, Life has been following the A plot, B plot formula not unlike what we saw in USA Network’s Burn Notice over the summer—the A plot centers around the murder/crime of the week while the B plot focuses on the Crews’ slow unraveling of the murder mystery—the crime that he mistakenly did the time for.

This past week’s episode, Powerless, was the most powerful yet of the series. While it gave some much deserved screen time to Crews’ partner Reese. In many ways, Reese and Crews are both very flawed people—in some ways different and others very much alike.

The good news is that Crews’ character has ditched many of the annoying quirks that he displayed in the pilot episode, just setting on one or two idiosyncrasies. He still displays an almost child like wonder at some of the many things that he missed while in prison—like GPS or the advent of the Internet, but we have also seen that dark angry side that he struggles—sometimes just barely, to hold back.

Crews’ partner Reese is the perfect counterweight for him. We like her for a number of reasons—first and foremost that she’s not been written as comic relief or as the sidekick to the oddball, quirky detective.

Reese outranks Crews as senior partner and she always seems to maintain her centeredness even as Crews sometimes is at his most wacky. But she has her demons as a recovering drug and booze addict after getting hooked while undercover.

For the past few episodes, we’ve been seeing Reese hook up in one-night stands with married men or people she doesn’t otherwise wish to know the morning after—a way to punish herself.

Since his release from prison, we’ve been seeing Crews hook up with just about every chippie in L.A.—it’s been inferred that these hookups are no good but it’s not so much the social stigma as it would be for Reese if her hooks ups ever became known.

In Powerless, we seek Reese in a bar getting ready to attend her department-mandated AA meetings—a ticket punching exercise when she sees a guy in the bar. The guy is also headed to the meeting and where he all but confesses to raping a woman the year before—blaming it on the booze.

Reese sees this guy for the sexual predator he is and soon Crews is helping her track him.

This is Reese’s episode but Crews still gets some good moments in there—like when he stands up in the AA meeting to admit his powerlessness over hate, that hate is his prison and how he struggles to escape that prison everyday. In another scene, Crews tells a rape victim that surviving and living through it proved that “prison” made her stronger than she ever thought she could be—a Freudian slip which told us it wasn’t just the rape victim he was talking about.

In the episode’s climax, the AA sex predator forces Reese to get drunk at gunpoint. He thinks he has her where he wants her as he tells her to confess to her “secrets” but scared, angry and feeling no pain (and stalling for time while Crews and the other cops come to the rescue) she let’s her mask slip, her dark side show and we see fear in the predator’s eyes even before he’s beaten down and arrested.

Watching Reese drunk to incapacitation by force of will trying to walk under her own power to the waiting ambulance and then only reluctantly leaning on Crews tells us all that we need to know about this character—she’s one tough customer, even when she’s at her weakest, which is to say at her most powerless.

To our mind, Reese is not just one of the best female cop characters on television but one of the best characters period. If Reese were an insurance adjuster instead of a police officer, she would be just as compelling.

She portrays her character the way she does and steers clear of all of the stereotypes—she’s tough without being more man then the men, cop-like brusque without seeming bitchy, and there’s no mistaking that she’s a woman that likes men (i.e. not “butch”)…sometimes to a fault.

If Danni Reese were “Danny” Reese, the cop character who was armor on the outside and flawed on the inside wouldn’t be anything new—but Sarah Shahi successfully manages what few others have been able to so flawlessly pull off (so far) by proving that “woman” and “tough” aren’t mutually exclusive concepts.

Meanwhile, as we get to know the characters, the viewer is also getting fed a little bit more each week about the crime that wrongfully put Charlie Crews in prison for 12 years. Each episode ends with Charlie in front of his “evidence wall” at home trying to connect the dots to the players involved and the evidence he’s accumulated. We sense a big payout coming.

Life has had a tough time in the ratings, helped not at all by the so-far disappointing Bionic Woman but we hope you all give it a chance. You can catch up on all of the episodes to date at and then watch it on Wednesdays at 10 p.m.


Blogger monic said...

Hope this late comment doesn't put you off but I stumbled into this post while in search for more Life news and ended up loving your review of Powerless, one of my favorite episodes in the series.

I also very much agree in your assessment of Dani Reese, who is, really one of the best female TV cops to date.

11:18 AM, January 19, 2008  
Blogger FanBoyWonder said...

Hey Monic,
Thanks so much for your patronage. Never too late to share a comment.

I was glad that Life kept getting better after Powerless and I was thrilled to find that Life was renewed for a full season (after the writer's strike of course).

I'm meaning to get around to a seaonsal wrap-up review of Life but things have been crazy at FanBoyWonder World Headquarters and with the strike and no new episodes in sight, there hasn't been pressing need yet.

Thanks again for reading and keep those cards and letters coming.


6:43 PM, January 20, 2008  
Blogger monic said...

Oh, I look forward for your full season write up, I've really fallen in love with the show and all the characters, particularly Reese.

In some ways she reminds me of Scully and yet she's distinct enough to stand out in my mind because this early she has her own identity and problems (so. many. problems.)

6:57 PM, January 20, 2008  

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