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Quick Takes: NBC’s Life

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageThe title to NBC’s new show Life is a little confusing at first, because in the age of House and Bones we expect the protagonist to be (nick)named like the show, or more precisely we expect the show to be named after the protagonist. Also Life doesn’t sound like a typical title for a cop show. We must look to the admittedly cheesy tagline for clarification: “Life was his sentence and life is what he got back.”

The protagonist’s name is Charlie Crews and he is a cop who just got exonerated after 12 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. And instead of living it up with his $50 million settlement, he chooses to go back to being a cop. Why? That’s for you to find out.

The show opens with a montage of images of Charlie in prison and intercuts them with video footage of the people in his life – his former partner, his attorney, his ex-wife – being interviewed about what happened back then. Apparently there was undeniable evidence against Charlie when he got sentenced and he got beaten up in prison a whole lot, simply because that’s what they do to a cop in there. The ominous shot of Charlie reading “The Way of Zen” in his cell follows before we cut to the now. Charlie, freshly out of the slammer and back on the job wearing a formidable suit, meets his new partner, Dani Reese. She is a confident, sassy, tight-mouthed, take-no-crap brunette, who doesn’t seem like she will enjoy Charlie’s Zen-talk one bit.

While the unlikely pair discovers a dead child and goes on the hunt for the murderer, the first episode really deals with the difficult transition for Charlie from prison back to the outside world. He doesn’t know cell phones, which are new to him entirely, can also take pictures and he has no idea what an IM is. On top of that Reese doesn’t seem one bit pleased to be his new partner and soon enough we find out why. She has her own dirty past, drugs were involved, and has to start from the bottom again, while at the same time her superior, Lt. Karen Davis, isn’t willing to make any allowances for either Reese or Crews. Davis wants Crews off the force, because it doesn’t make the least bit of sense that after his settlement of undisclosed amount (the $50 million are a rumor) he would still choose to work as a cop again.

When Reese mentions to Charlie that she would be out for revenge against those who set him up if she were in his place, he denies having those intentions, but the last shot of the episode reveals a different truth. This and the interesting relationship Charlie seems to have not only with his female attorney and confidante, but also with his financial advisor and former cellmate in prison, give the show an intriguing premise.

At the center of a show that looks a bit like CSI:Miami meets NYPD Blue is extraordinary British actor Damian Lewis of Band of Brothers fame. His American accent is once again flawless, his witty Zen wisdoms are dryly delivered and his goofy smile sums up the person Charlie Crews has become in twelve years in maximum security prison. Like his fellow Englishman Hugh Laurie, Lewis has the power to blow most other actors (not only in TV) out of the water. The show is sleek, funny and full of dark secrets lurking under the shiny exterior, though it checks off a few clichés on its way (like the mother of the murdered child begging them to find the bad guy or the aforementioned Zen philosophy).

But in the midst of all the procedural shows Life brings with it a fresh breath of air in form of Charlie Crews, who is convinced that the universe is making fun of us all because it is insecure.

All in all it is a fully recommendable show. Here’s to hoping it can survive on Wednesdays running against Dirty Sexy Money and CSI:NY.