4 September 2008
by Monessa Tinsley-Crabb
TV on DVD: ‘Eli Stone,’ ‘Life,’ ‘The Office’
‘Life: Season One’
3 1/2 stars = Very good
Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner! “Life: Season One” ($29.98, Universal) is entertaining, different, fun and not obnoxiously sexified. Bloody? Not comparatively so. It’s a 21st-century cop show after all. No it’s not a show for 8-year-olds. But “Life” is for those who find quirky, cerebral detectives a hoot to watch.
What else makes “Life” good? The story, the writing and the acting.
Creator Rand Ravich (“The Astronaut’s Wife”) devised an original story involving LAPD officer Charlie Crews. Set up for killing his business partner/buddy, the man’s wife and one of his children, Crews serves 12 years of a life sentence. On the inside Crews teaches himself Zen Buddhism and savagely fights to stay alive. Then, DNA evidence clears him. Next, he wins a $50 million lawsuit and a promotion to detective. How compelling is that?
The first episode’s writing hammers into viewers that 12 years in the Pelican Bay SUH, security housing unit, changes a man. These contrivances smooth out in later episodes. But Ravich shows that prison takes away more than physical freedom. Crews is forever feeding a fruit fetish because he never got any inside. Mundane conversations with him turn into audiences with the Buddha. Crews says things about being-here-but-not-here-but-more-likely-to-be-here-than-not-here.
None could have fit better than ginger-haired Londoner Damian Lewis. The 39-year-old, known for appearing in HBO’s “Band of Brothers,” puts forward a convincing air of guilelessness while he keeps the viewer mindful — in a variety of ways — that betrayal and imprisonment has torn Crews’ psyche.