Why You Should Watch... Life

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Damian Lewis as Charlie Crews
Sarah Shahi as Dani Rees
Adam Arkin as Ted Early
Robin Weigert as Lt. Karen Davis
Brooke Langton as Constance Griffiths

"Life was his sentence. Life is what he got back"

In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. In 1995 Charlie Crews was sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit, for twelve years he struggled as an ex-cop in prison until he won his appeal and was cleared of all charges. His settlement is substantial; including a large amount of money and reinstatement as a detective in the LAPD.

Now is an excellent time to get into Life as it's about to start it's second season with a relaunch "pilot", this is to provide an entry point for those of you who missed the first season. This episode will be launched on the 29th of September, so if you're inclined you can get up to speed in the five weeks you have left quite easily.

But what is Life about? Well, as the introductory paragraph suggests it's a police procedural drama centered around one Charlie Crews (Damian Lewis - Band of Brothers). A man who's spent a considerable amount of time in prison after being framed. After being released thanks to the tireless efforts of his lawyer Constance (Brooke Langton - Melrose Place, Friday Night Lights) and has had his job in the LAPD returned to him as part of his settlement. Charlie returns to the world a changed man - having absorbed many teachings of Zen Buddhism - but he's very unwelcome in the police force as many of them feel he is in truth guilty. Charlie is placed under the supervision of Lieutenant Karen Davis (Robin Weigert - Deadwood) and partnered up with Detective Dani Rees (Sarah Shahi - Teachers, The L Word, Alias). The LAPD cannot fire Charlie for any old reason, but Davis makes it clear that they will use anything as an excuse to get rid of Crews. Detective Rees is also not keen to be partnered with Charlie as she's both suspicious of him and finds him annoying.

Life follows a mix of typical police procedural cases; many of them interesting - a personal favourite being the episode where a man is found "standing" dead next to a fridge in an almost empty house without his legs - and an over-reaching metaplot where Charlie attempts to find out who framed him and why. It's this gradual voyage of discovery that keeps the hooks running from one week to the next, but it's not the primary reason to watch the show.

Lewis is powerful and commanding as Charlie Crews; he brings an intensity to the screen that portrays a man divided. Charlie is driven by a thirst to discover 'why'; but he also attempts to follow the teachings of Zen, which tells him to let go. He's an outdated man who's been unable to keep up with developments in the world and has emerged into an almost alien world filled with high tech computers and mobile phones. He has been compared to House and Monk in some reviews as there are echos of that style of character in him, but he's not a clone of them - just similar.

The supporting cast all give excellent performances themselves. Sarah Shani is excellent as Dani Rees; she portrays a gradual acceptance of Crews with great skill and provides a good partner for him on screen. Adam Arkin as Ted is fantastic as well; Ted met Charlie in prison and now handles his finances. He provides a level head for advice and Charlie trusts him completely with his money, despite the fact that he's an ex-con.

Robin is almost unrecognisable when compared to her role in Deadwood, before she was the drunken slurring Calamity Jane. Here she's a hard nosed piece who's been stuck with the bad penny and she's been given orders to get rid of Crews if possible.

Life is a slick and enjoyable show to watch; it's not the most sophisticated show out there, but it is entertaining. Damian Lewis is the main reason to watch this; he's intense and captivating, but there's plenty more to like.

The show started out strong and is still young, so while it's not got the hype of Heroes, Lost or Dexter it is still worth putting on your radar. Especially if you're a fan of Lewis or Police dramas.

I for one will be looking forward to the premiere of the second season and will probably be recapping events in it periodically.


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