Life is a police procedural show which runs on NBC, starring Damian Lewis as Charlie Crews - a detective who was imprisoned wrongfully for murder and finally released and cleared of all charges twelve years later. As part of his settlement he's reinstated to the force; with a new outlook on life, fifty million dollars, a new appreciation for fruit and the determination to find out
Life's first season is something of a grower, it starts off strongly and then flounders a little before solidifying into something truly special. The core cast is small, but performances from all of them are nothing short of superb. Charlie is partnered with Dani Reese (Sarah Shahi) who's a tough, competent and independent woman with a few problems - she's a recovering addict and her father might be involved in the people who framed Charlie. Then there's Ted Earley (Adam Arkin) who lives in Charlies home and works his accounts; Ted and Charlie met on the inside, Ted was locked up for embezzling pensions. Robin Weigert is Lieutenant Karen Davis, Charlie's commanding officer seeking for a reason to have him fired. And Brent Sexton rounds out the cast as Charlie's ex-partner Robert Stark.
The first season of Life runs for eleven episodes, each episode is a self contained case but there is also an overarching story involving Charlie's burning desire to find out who actually committed the murder he was framed for and why he was framed. His driven need to do this sometimes interferes with his ability to work smoothly and without incident.
Over the course of these eleven episodes we're introduced to a wide range of cases, some of which are very intriguing and all of which have the stunning and stylistic visual shots which Life loves to employ. Charlie and Dani will investigate a fallen "angel", half a man standing by a fridge, a buried alive Zen instructor and more besides. Many of these cases are quite interesting in their own manner, which is very important when you're dealing with a procedural show - you need to have gripping stories which can run in around forty minutes if you're going to be a success. Life manages it with increasing confidence as the season develops: "Farthingale" is an excellent episode, but the crowning moment is the final two episodes "Dig a Hole" and "Fill it up".
There is a lot to like about Life, but it's not a perfect construct. The small cast does put a lot of pressure onto Damien Lewis's performance, fortunately he delivers, but this is an issue - personally I find shows which focus too heavily on one character risking too many eggs at once. There are also parallels which can be drawn between the character of Charlie Crews and one Doctor Gregory House, and while I personally don't have any issues with this, it might irritate some.
Still, if you're looking for a beautiful, stylish, police procedural which switches things up a little and takes the stereotypical "quirky main sleuth" in a new direction Life's first season is something you should consider checking out.
Fruits of Life
Life's Questions Answered
Audio Commentary with Cast and Crew
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:!
Regions: 2, 4 & 5 PAL
Run time: 7 Hours 36 Mins approx (Extras: 22 mins)
Soundtrack: 5.1 English