The Tedium Is The Message4


NBC’s Life centers on Detective Charlie Crews (Damien Lewis) exonerated after twelve years in jail for a shocking triple murder. Set up by his fellow cops for mysterious reasons, he wins a $50 million settlement, and returns to his old job amid a sea of resentment and suspicion at the station.  Divorced by his wife while in prison, he wants her back too.  It’s The Count of Monte Cristo Meets LA’s Ramparts.

Charlie has a zest for zen after stumbling upon a book in prison.  He eats a lot of fruit, a familiar mannerism a little overplayed by Lewis.  (Lewis conversationally munched on a green apple in Band of Brothers, too.)

The underutilized Adam Arkin as former fund manager and ex-con Ted Early who lives above Charlie’s garage and manages his mone, is charming and quirky.  Ted develops an urban wildlife phobia after a coyote (the trickster in Native American mythology) innocently wanders onto the property and confines him to the pool during his afternoon swim.  To Charlie’s dismay, Ted orders a chain link fencing installed around the perimeter of the property.

Charlie maintains a secret room in his mansion where he works to unravel the plot behind his conviction.  

The series began to slip after the coyote episode.  In a what appeared to be a Halloween themed hour, Charlie’s fiercely loyal lawyer is smacked around by one of her pro-bono clients.  (The writers had been USTing over these two for a while – sonorous delivery of lines, all weighted with meaning, over wine.)

“I didn’t know anyone else to call.  I’m so scared!” She wails helplessly in Charlie’s arms.  “He hit me.  I’m so stupid. [sob! ] I just wanted him to be you! Because you’re not mine anymore.  All those years you were mine. [sob!]  Hold me!”

Omg!!  Woman in Jep UST.   My blood ran cold but for all the wrong reasons.  I stopped the DVR two minutes into this episode.

In the video game ep Ted is stranded in the desert with Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks who sings a lullaby under the stars and beneath a solar farm.  (It was “Green Is Universal” week on NBC.)

“What is this crap!?” groused my daughter, “That actress is terrible.”

I defended Hendrick’s honor.  “She’s not!” I said defensively, ”You should see her in Mad Men.  She’s terrific.  It’s the writing.”

I checked into Life once again last week.  To my surprise it’s was a satisfying episode - tightly written with interlocking themes.  The storyline advanced nicely and concluded with a zingy little plot twist.

But herein lies the problem.  As a red-blooded viewer, I would have abandoned Life the moment Charlie’s lawyer wailed helplessly in his arms. 

Life was just picked for another nine episode but James Hibberd called the decision "a surprise, as the show has performed modestly in recent weeks, coming in last place on Wednesdays at 10 p.m."

In this competitive landscape – where viewers have plenty of alternatives, a show can ill afford three to four weak episodes back-to-back.