Premieres tonight on NBC, 10 p.m. ET/ 9 p.m. CT
The title of Life has a double meaning. It's both the sentence the show's hero Charlie Crews (Damian Lewis) received when he was falsely convicted of murder. But it's also meant to suggest that the show will regularly pause for some philosophical contemplation of, you know, life. As the show opens, Crews has been released from prison, where he spent a lot of time reading books like The Path To Zen. Given a handsome settlement, he nonetheless decided to resume life as a cop, bringing with him the wisdom of all those prison studies. He's strange. He's brilliant. And he gets the job done within an hour's time.
He and Life owe a lot to House, another show with a hero whose off-puttingly eccentric methods threaten to alienate him from both co-workers and the people he's trying to help. Crews hugs a lot more, however. And eats a lot of fruit. Essentially, if you add up his quirks you have the character. And if you plug those quirks into an otherwise formulaic police procedural you have the show, or at least the show suggested by this pilot.
Otherwise it's distinguished only by some nice, steely cinematography and, well, not a whole lot else. Sara Shahi plays Crews' reluctant partner, but even her resistance has begun to melt by episode's end. The presence of Adam Arkin as Crews' financial advisor and fellow ex-con is promising, but that's based more on Arkin's track record than anything he's given to do.
I like that Crews seems to still be struggling with his newfound Zen-ness, exacting revenge on his ex-wife's husband, bedding whatever floats his way, and truly digging the hot car his new wealth has allowed him to buy. The show passes the hour tolerably well–less so once we hit the wildly overacting bad guys–but otherwise there's not a lot here to draw me back for another episode, apart from a chance to see the most lovingly photographed fruit outside of the Food Network.
Grade: C Stray observations: — This must be the year of the millionaire cop. See also Demi Moore in Mr. Brooks. — It takes only one episode for the show to find a reason to get ex-Dallas Cowboys cheerleader co-star Shahi wet. Expect her to go undercover to bust a bikini model crime ring if the ratings dip.