I’ve been a little concerned about Life this season. Moving it around to multiple time slots makes me nervous the audience won’t be able to find a show that wasn’t exactly burning up the ratings charts to begin with. In addition, after a clever and spooky season opener, the plots sagged a bit. The convenience of an earthquake wasn’t quite as bad as thinking anyone could re-create the Stanford Prison Experiment, but it didn’t make a lot of sense. The editing has often been weird, as well, with the show returning from commercials to scenes completely unrelated to anything that’s previously happened in the episode.
Still, I’m not sure you watch Life for the procedural twists–this is a show you relish for the character moments, the terrific music, and the witty asides. When those are paired with a more interesting plot, like the mall-based child abuse in “Black Friday,” you have a show ten levels above the typical procedural. Unlike its crime-show siblings, Life is never lazy–instead of filling time with fake science mimed to cheap techno music, Life shades in the corners with questions about who Dani is evolving into and whether Charlie can continue to evolve while dipping a toe back into his old life. The show also goes to the trouble of writing actual dialogue: you’re not going to see throwaway discussions of the sugar content of fruit or the shopping habits of lizard buyers played for laughs on CSI or Law and Order. The difference between these shows and Life is that the latter is fun. Crime procedurals are among the most popular shows on network TV–if you like them, give yourself an early Christmas present and check out one with a dark sense of humor and characters that do more than prop up fake science.