Thursday, September 25, 2008

FanBoyWonder Television Spotlight—The Return of ‘Life’

It’s been a long time coming but FanBoyWonder is pleased to announce the return this Monday of the second season of one our favorite television shows—Life on NBC.

We’ve been big fans of this show from the start. As much a victim of last season’s shortened writers strike as it was a beneficiary, Life is an under-hyped, yet top shelf action-cop drama that is frequently overshadowed by shows with more (marketing) flash but much less substance.

Life Season 2 kicks off on Monday at 10 p.m. even as the DVD of Season 1 is on sale now, as well as available for viewing on the show’s website

Here’s the Upshot from NBC: Life was his sentence. Life is what he got back. Damian Lewis (Band of Brothers) stars as the unconventional police officer-turned-convict-turned-detective with a second chance in each compelling Season One episode of the critically acclaimed mystery series Life.

After twelve years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, offbeat Charlie Crews has returned to the force with a $50 million settlement, a new spiritual outlook, a strong fondness for fruit, and a highly unusual approach to solving crime. With the aid of his skeptical and demanding new partner, Dani Reese, played by Sarah Shahi (Rush Hour 3), he’s turning police procedure upside down in this unique and fast-paced series with a “terrific cast [and] terrific writing” [according to Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times].

Despite its crappy Friday 10 p.m. time slot, NBC is at least trying to give the show a decent chance of attracting new viewers by rolling out four new episodes in two weeks—the aforementioned season premiere on Monday, at 10 p.m. after Heroes, then Friday, Oct. 3 at 10, then Monday Oct. 6 and back to Friday Oct. 10.

Life creator Rand Ravich has said that new viewers need not have seen any of Season 1 to get up to speed on Monday—NBC has posted the Season 2 premiere on the website and we agree, it’s a good episode for old fan and newcomer alike.

However, if you do get the Season1 DVD or even view it online, if you don’t feel like slogging through the whole season, all you need to do watch is the first episode and the season finale—“Pilot” and “Fill It Up” respectively to get the gist but we guarantee that you’ll want more.

The latter episode, Fill It Up was quite intense and should have nabbed Lewis an Emmy® nomination, as Crews confronted the man who killed his friends and he confronts his rage at serving the time.

Life follows the A plot, B plot formula— not unlike what we saw in USA Network’s Burn Notice, but much more effective in its implementation—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 and conspiracy for which he was framed and lost 12 years of his life behind bars.
It took a couple episodes early in last season but Crews ditched many of the annoying quirks that he displayed in the pilot episode, settling on just one or two idiosyncrasies.

Yet Lewis as Crews 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] was in maximum security most of that time [during his 12-year prison stay], fighting for his life, the rest in solitary confinement," Lewis told USA Today earlier this month. "You have a character who is wild and imaginative and poetic and cracked and warped as you like. The world has changed."

Crews’ partner Reese is the perfect counterweight for him. We like her for a number of reasons—first and foremost that she’s not written 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.

Lewis is the star of the show but Sarah Shahi is ever bit his equal and not the comic relief sidekick or worse the eye candy with a gun pretending to be a cop. (See the episode “Powerless” again if there are any doubts).

Reese and Crews are both very flawed people—in some ways different and others very much alike. Unlike other Life fans, we hope Reese and Crews NEVER hook up romantically but we do hope they work their way toward a battle-hardened friendship.

We weren’t crazy about him at first but we’ve grown to like the character of Ted Early (Adam Arkin), the paroled financier who Crews saved while they were in lock up together and on the outside is Crews’ housemate and money manager.

We are not so taken with Crews' lawyer Constance (Brooke Langton), who appears to have been dropped from the main cast, nor with Crews’ ex-wife Jenn (Jennifer Siebel) who believed Crews was guilty and divorced him in prison.

Crews has some issues with her but unfortunately there’s little chemistry between the two and we blame that on Siebel who seems overwhelmed with the part.

We’ve since learned that Stargate SG-1’s Claudia Black was cast as Jenn originally but she had to bow out due to pregnancy. It’s a shame because we saw some early clips of Black as Jenn from the pilot and she was gangbusters and brought a lot more depth to the table.

Crews and Reese have a new boss this season in the form of Donal Logue replacing Deadwood’s Robin Weigart. We were disappointed by this as Weigart’s Lt. Davis was a tough but fair boss, even as she was subtly blackmailing Reese to give her dirt to use to kick Crews off the force and it seemed she was involved in some way in the Crews frame-up conspiracy.

We hope she gets to come back as a recurring character rather than be thrown away altogether.

Season 2 Wish List: We are really hoping to see more of Charlie Crews’ life before he went to jail; more of the character growth Ted started to show by the end of Season 1, as well as how Crews and Ted met in prison.

Most of all, after nearly two decades of Guilty as charged, prosecutors-can-do-no wrong (got Nifong????) on Law & Order, we would really LOVE to see Charlie Crews getting into the face of the District Attorney over the issue of the wrongly convicted.

Bottom line: Life had a tough time in the ratings last season and with a bad time slot and minimal network support, it can use some viewer help. In a sea of “reality” television crap, Life is a quality drama that is definitely worth your time.


Blogger monic said...

Thank you for this write-up I've been looking forward to this for a while now.

I'm so happy to see that you're not only a Crews fan but a Reese fan. I've been disappointed at how overlooked Sarah Shahi is by some fans and the media, extolling (much deserved) virtues on Damian Lewis but nary a mention of Ms. Shahi.

Oh, if you liked Claudia Black you should watch Farscape, she's fantastic in that. I hope she returns to the show.

As for Charlie and Dani getting together actually, most fans are conflicted on that. Including myself, I like them to remain partners on screen but I can indulge thoughts of them together off screen, particularly in fanfic but I don't think I want them together too.

They work so well as partners, a lot better than most I've seen on TV. And I love the synchronized policing thing they do.

Here's to a new season of Life, long may it stay!

7:01 PM, September 25, 2008  
Blogger FanBoyWonder said...

Hello Monic,

Thanks for your input and the kind words. With you, I’m it’s now confirmed that FanBoyWonder is read by WELL over a dozen people now….and with you I have an international following. :)

Yes I am very much a Reese fan…I guess having a little girl makes one more sensitive to seeing if not positive than at least strong female role models. What makes Shahi so good as Reese is that the actress is a stunningly beautiful woman (something quite rare in Hollywood I’m sure :) but by force of sheer will and acting the viewer totally buys her as a buttoned down, straight laced cop….instead of her small stature being a minus, it’s a plus. Reese is one tough broad.

I was aware of Claudia Black in Farscape but never was a regular watcher and I tolerated her character on SG-1, even as she breathed new life into the old show….but I think she really gone far with the Jenn role.

Hopefully they will have Black on the show in another role but as a love interest for Crews. Someone more compelling than the lawyer Constance.

Also, I just remembered this, I hope we finally get to meet Crews’ father—he was alluded to in the pilot episode as abandoning Charlie and not allowing his mother to visit him in prison….and her subsequently dying (of a broken heart?).

Nothing would be more of a window into who the pre-prison Charlie Crews was than meeting his father IMHO.

Thanks for reading. I’m going to try to do more regular reviews of each weekly episode so I hope to see more of your input.


3:51 PM, September 26, 2008  
Blogger Apurva said...

Another major Life fan here :)
And yes, apart from being in love with Charlie, I'm a big Reese fan of the reasons why I enjoyed Powerless so much. And I can't believe people say that she can't act..they should watch "powerless" or "fallen angel" again.

Some part of me hopes like mad that Olivia ditches Crews's father for Ted...a just punishment for treating Charlie the way he did. And I agree...I need a lot more information about Charlie's jail life. I enjoyed "Not for nothing" so much because it gave a lot of insight into Charlie and Ted's lives in jail. It also mentioned the incident where charlie was supposed to have killed that guard.

As to Crews and Reese...I go with monic. Even if they do get together, i'd rather it takes lots and lots of time and isdeveloped real slowly.

Can't wait to catch the next episode!

2:23 AM, October 31, 2008  

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