NBC has their very own House, and they don’t even know it. You probably don’t either, given how very few people tuned in to watch the extraordinary Life last season.
So how exactly is cop show Life like medical drama House? Well, aside from the monosyllabic nomenclature, they’re both shows that take tired television genres and revitalize them with clever writing, surprisingly complex plots, and singularly talented and charismatic leading men (who both happen to be Brits doing a remarkable job faking their American accents) playing characters who are broken on the inside.
Life stars Damian Lewis (Band of Brothers) as Charlie Crews, a homicide detective back on the force after spending 12 years in prison for some murders he didn’t commit. His time in the clink has left Crews slightly unhinged, a condition he attempts to quell by spouting Zen wisdom at odd moments, much to the chagrin of pretty much everyone around him. He’s also obsessed with fruit. But more importantly, he’s got a brilliant mind for detective work and a gift for looking at a crime scene (or a suspect) and seeing what others don’t.
Unsurprisingly, Crews really wants to know who set him up for murder. And here’s where Life does House one better, because its murder-of-the-week format is framed by a compelling, Veronica Mars-style mytharc. The clues are doled out in tantalizing dribs and drabs throughout season one (which was abbreviated to only eleven episodes due to the strike), culminating in a startlingly revelatory two-part finale. And if you think the mystery ends there, well, you must not watch much TV. But don’t worry, you don’t have to understand the intricacies of the central mystery to enjoy Life, you just have to show up.
Another area in which Life tops House is that its male lead is matched by an equally impressive female lead. Crews’ tough-as-nails partner, played by the stunning Sarah Shahi (The L Word), is a perfect foil for her kooky counterpart. She may not like him much, but her immediate and unshakable loyalty to her damaged partner is a force to be reckoned with.
Here’s the bottom line, people: you need to watch this show. No, really, you do. Season two debuts Monday in the post-Heroes slot before Life is shuffled off to its regular Friday berth, and I promise you it’s ten times better than Heroes. Don’t want to wait for Monday? You can watch a sneak peek of the premiere on Hulu right now. Right now! Plus, if you’ve got TiVo, it’s available free on Amazon Unbox this week (along with Chuck). Also, season one is available on DVD for those who want to catch up on what they missed (even if NBC’s cheap-ass accountants have replaced the show’s outstanding music selections with cheaper, lamer fare for the DVD release).
This show needs you. For the sake of good television everywhere, I beg you to watch Life before NBC pulls the plug. Remember what happened to Veronica Mars? Do you want that to happen again? Do you?