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Life

The first season opens on the release of the central character, an LA detective whose been brutalized in a maximum-security prison for twelve years.  Define anticlimax.  The quirky Rumplestiltskin thing that Damian Lewis achieves for all eleven episodes of this initial season works to varying degrees because of the presence of Damian Lewis and a remarkably interesting cast of collaborators surrounding the character he portrays.   Robin Wiegert, Adam Arkin, Michael Cudlitz, Garrett Dillahunt, Christina Hendricks and Titus Welliver (Deadwood, Band of Brothers, Firefly, NYPD Blue, and Adam fucking Arkin!).

The episodic (standalone) felony investigations gradually include fragments of information about the ancient homicide case that kept him locked away in prison until his persistent defense attorney, a very attractive woman, eventually secured and brought forward excuplatory DNA evidence that resulted in

  • his release from prison,
  • his acceptance of an undisclosed and enviable cash award for wrongful imprisonment, and
  • the restoration of his job as a metropolitan detective. 

It didn’t guarantee that his senior partner, Sarah Shahi (as Det. Dani Reese), would be one of the most beautiful women presently working in television.  That’s just a riveting and marketable coincidence.  It’s also a deeply contrived assortment of circumstances that kept my teeth on edge.

And there are peculiar technical stupidities that crop up from time to time, like;  at one point in an early episode the prime suspect and lone survivor of a car wreck is seated in an interrogation room wearing a butterfly bandage over his right eye, except when it’s over his left eye, as though somebody flipped the negative in coverage and nobody respected the audience enough to think it really mattered.  Ultimately, it doesn’t.

The premise and synopsis of this show depend upon the semi-plausible idea that Charlie Crews, the central character, has undergone a radical transformation within the walls of his imprisonment that lead him now to caper with the rigid corners of duly-authorized police procedure in ways that reflect dry humor and perfect knowledge of the wily criminal mentality, making him a kind of supercop with a really-interesting mind. 

The thing is that relatively few members of the audience are expected to be sufficiently steeped in genuine police procedure to spontaneously recognize Charlie’s deviations from SOP, so one or more of his onscreen compatriots is obliged to raise an eyebrow or otherwise object to the zany antics of a knife-slinging, Bentley-driving, zen-platitude spouting oddball LA homicide detective who lives in an unfurnished stately mansion on several acres of orange groves with hot’n hotter California babes constantly on tap.  Return with us now the the thrilling days yesteryear, as The Lone Ranger, and Magnum, P.I. ride again.  Because who the hell remembers?

Getting to know, really-really like, and root for Charlie Cruz and Dani Ruiz in the course of nine standalone episodes is probably supposed to prepare the viewer for the wealth of juicy revelations about the case that originally imprisoned him, arc-tic revelations that gradually begin to intrude on the graceful pace of his weekly felony solutions.  It doesn’t quite work because the unfolding of this involuted, damaged character takes too long to unfurl with drizzled-in elements of old evidence from twelve years earlier, while the hidden personality of the central character very rarely appears beneath the various layers of pseudo-comic subterfuge:  “I’m a good cop, a master-criminal, a man on a mission to solve an old crime and I’m also quite enlightened, except with regard to technical advancements like cellphones with cameras and the mysteries of Instant Messaging — stuff that happened while I was in stir..”.  Welcome to dis-appointment television, and farewell.

Note to folks who produce DVDs:  Five egos in a tiny viewing room is not a good idea.

21 Apr 10 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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