Monday, December 5, 2011

Life


Life (2007-2009)
NBC, Starring Damian Lewis



Typically I have been reviewing movies on Mondays, but today I am going to review the TV series Life, which ran on NBC for 32 episodes over a year and a half.

Charlie Crews (Lewis) is a LA cop wrongly convicted for the murder of a friend and the friend’s entire family. He is released after twelve years with a huge settlement and his job back—actually, with a promotion: he’s now a detective. He found religion in prison, something that’s made a big impact on his life, but now he finds himself continually in conflict: Zen master versus answers and/or revenge? He doesn’t have to pull at many threads before a vast conspiracy begins to unravel, connecting his conviction to rogue cops, the FBI, and a psychotic Russian mobster. He’s aided in his search by a former inmate, a partner who may have connections to the rogue cops, and a cast of interesting, well defined characters.

I like this show a lot, but I have to admit I had never heard of it until a friend forced the two DVD sets on me. TV is chalk full of police procedurals nowadays and the prospect of watching another didn’t appeal to me, but this one is very different. It is bookended by two very strong things. The first is an interesting cast of characters, anchored by Lewis’ great performance. In our post-Law & Order TV universe, formula is everything, but Charlie Crews is character that could have held the show together for years without becoming tired. He wants peace and answers. He can’t have both, but he can’t be satisfied with just one, and won’t be until all the questions are answered and people who are above the law answer for what they’ve done. The other thing is a complex and compelling conspiracy that creates links where you would least expect them, while still remaining convincing. The show does suffer towards the end, however, as the producers, realizing they needed to wrap things up, rushed to answer as many questions as possible. The episodes themselves are great TV, but it’s disappointing to get a hint of what might have been, knowing there isn’t going to be any more.

Re-reading what I’ve written so far, I realize I’ve made the show sound a lot darker than it is. This is not dark show. Crews’ situation brings a sense of absurdity into the show that never far away. He’s joined by Adam Arkin as his ex-con roommate and financial advisor, and Sarah Shahi as his partner Dani Reese. And, yes, the show is on Netflix.

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