A while back, I started watching Life. There were two reasons for this. One is that all the episodes that then existed were free online at Hulu. The other reason is Damian Lewis, who played Winters in Band of Brothers, and, along with Ron Livingston, made me feel very conflicted. Is it wrong to crush on actors when they’re playing real people who are as old as my grandpa and portraying important historical events? Oh, the conflict.
At any rate, I was hooked on Life immediately, but didn’t spread the news. I think I was obscurely ashamed of the show, mostly because it is weird. It’s a good weird, though. A very deliberate weird. So, I’m letting the world know: if you’re not watching Life, you should be.
Top Ten Reasons You Should Be Watching Life:
10. It’s not like every other cop show. Since the premise (cop Charlie Crews gets sentenced to life for triple murder he didn’t commit, then gets exonerated and insists on being a cop again as part of his settlement) is a little far-fetched, so is everything else. The murders, suspects and situations are zany, often surreal. It’s not a cop show that could be set anywhere but LA. It’s not a cop show you could confuse with any old procedural on the air.
9. Crews’s silly amounts of money. And the silly things the show does with it, like the musical chairs with Charlie’s car.
8. Cinematography. Ryan can tell you more about this, but it’s not shot like any old show, either. Nice light, interesting angles.
7. No goddamn inter-partner sexual tension. Yes, Damian Lewis and Sarah Shahi are both hot. Yes, the viewing public will probably enjoy that. No, the writers are not using it to create constant, stupid sexual tension like every show for the last twenty-plus years of television. Hallelujah!
6. Surprises. They’re not shaking up the formula every week or pulling a Joss every season, but there are enough people getting shot or starting relationships that you didn’t expect that you stay on your toes.
5. The music. Ryan says the DVD doesn’t have the same music as the aired episodes (I believe Hulu does) but it tends to be unusual, good, and add to the episodes in an intelligent, fun way.
4. The supporting characters. Often mystery shows that have to present a new cast of suspects and victims every week fall into shorthand, but this show doesn’t rely on that. They depict different parts of a very diverse LA every week, and the characters are idiosyncratic, varied, human. Some of the recurring characters are played by great actors like Adam Arkin and (Saffron/Yolanda/Bridget) Christina Hendricks.
3. Sarah Shahi. Danni Reese could have been a simple straight-man cop character, but Shahi does a fabulous job of depicting her with layers and edges.
2. The writing. There’s the cop banter over the weird cases, Charlie’s ongoing attempts to view his odd life through Zen, his off-kilter questions to suspects, and his unquenchable passion for fruit. It’s unexpected without trying too hard. It’s droll without being dumb.
1. Damian Lewis. He’s a fabulous actor. I mean, I like Hugh Laurie as much as the next Wodehouse addict, but Damian Lewis’s American accent is the best I can recall hearing from a Brit. And his delivery of all the great lines in #2? Pitch-perfect straight-faced hilarity. His character is complex and winning.
Of course the show has its weak points. Everything does. I am not 100% convinced they had cemented the entire backstory/conspiracy before they started writing it, and there are some conceits and characters in Season 1 they ditched by Season 2. But it’s a good show, only getting better. Go watch Life.