After over saturating the television landscape with countless procedural shows with typical case-of-the-week stories, the networks have finally started to change the recipe. Now we’re starting to see an influx of similarly thematic shows that focus on weekly cases, but now include a quirky character defect and overarching plots that take up the entire season. Much like what the USA Network has been toying around with for the past few years. This is the exact type of thing that viewers like me who can’t get into the dry, repetitive whodunit’s needed to start watching the big four during prime time again.
After spending twelve years in a federal maximum security prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Charlie Crews emerged out of the state pen with a new outlook on Life, a handsome settlement fee, and a shiny new detective badge. Now out, he sees just how much was taken away from him, and he’s not too happy. Having lost his job, his former partner, his wife, and over a decade of freedom, the only people to never give up on Charlie were his defense Attorney, Constance, and a fellow inmate, Ted, charged with the white collar crime of insider trading. Now, the unconventional police officer-turned-convict-turned-detective secretly tries to uncover the truth behind why he was set up, while re-adjusting to a Life without bars and chain link fences.
Having its first season cut short due to the writers strike does appear to hastily ramp up the need to reveal some of the seasons big secrets during the final episodes. Making the overall experience of watching the three discs worth of episodes satisfying, wrapping up in a way that doesn’t feel overly compressed or distilled down to a point where character and entertainment get sidelined. One reason for this is most likely due to the fact that the whole cover up behind Charlie’s wrongful incarceration appears to go farther down the rabbit hole than the show leads you to believe. Presumably providing for quite a few seasons worth of Crews getting the chance to serve up some zen justice.
There were a couple stumbles along the season, with a few episodes where the main storylines weren’t the most interesting or grabbing and, with only eleven episodes, tend to stick out like a sore thumb. One example of this being an episode where, if memory serves correct, ran during NBC’s “Green Week”. Where Charlie has a vision of owning solar fields (which are never mentioned ever again), and has to solve a kidnapping case which–I kid you not–revolves around a lot of police personnel sitting around a TV watching someone play a video game very enthusiastically so that they can access a hidden file on the hard drive. It’s probably the worst of the bunch, really taking the show down a level.
As the show goes on, though, we begin to see deeper complexities to the characters, slowly revealing how they’re all interconnected in a much larger picture. Hopefully that means the show in future seasons will start to turn the focus more so on the conspiracy and less on crime of the week plots. Life is exactly what NBC has been desperately needing on their line-up. A post modern cop show that isn’t afraid to include a few winks and nods at the structure and cliches of the procedural genre.
I still amazes me how advances in compression technology manage to cram three hours worth of content onto a DVD with such minimal loss in quality. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfers spread across the three discs all look fantastic, with only some signs of edge enhancement and minor compression artifacts.
Much like many new shows on TV, Life features an English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The show makes ample use of all five speakers and done a fine job setting the mood and tone.
The DVD set for Life: Season One is devoid of much substance. From the five commentary tracks all the way down to a feature that focuses on the veritable types of fruit featured, it lacks any essential information about the series itself. Inside you’ll find the aforementioned commentaries which included key cast and crew member, but has a very laid back and casual tone. Life Beginnings (8:17) and Life’s Questions Answered (5:23) are the main sources of substantial discussion and focuses on the overarching conspiracy storyline and general basis of the show. After that we get a couple Deleted Scenes (2:06, total) which, while not without their charm, are forgettable. Fruits of Life (:43), as I said earlier, takes a peek at all the fruits that have found their way onto the show. It’s about as entertaining as a feature of its kind can be. Lastly we have a Blooper Reel (1:01) and a collection of production stills in a very poorly titled Still Life gallery.
Much like what the USA Network has been toying around with for the past few years, NBC has finally put some faith in a character-based show that bends the traditional cop genre. The truncated first season may have forced the writers hands in revealing some big secrets, but the mystery remains intriguing and that’s what counts. Life comes recommended, but the lack of extras is a disappointment.
Universal Studios presents Life: Season One. Created by Rand Ravich. Starring Adam Arkin, Damian Lewis, Robin Weigert, Brooke Langton, Sarah Shahi. Running time: 7 hours 56 minutes. Not Rated. Released on DVD: September 2, 2007. Available at Amazon.com.