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Basic Info

Project Phase: Series ordered

Genre: Drama

Pilot: “Merit Badge” Filmed in Los Angeles in February and March 2007

Premiere: September 26, 2007 at 10 PM ET on NBC (US)

Broadcast: Fall 2007, Wednesdays at 10 PM ET on NBC (US)

Production Co: NBC Universal Studio

Cast: Damian Lewis (Charlie Crews), Sarah Shahi (Dani Reese), Adam Arkin (Ted Early), Melissa Sagemiller (Constance Griffiths), and Robin Weigert (Lt. Karen Davis)

Crew: Rand Ravich (Screenwriter, Executive Producer), Far Shariat (Executive Producer), (Executive Producer), David Semel (Director/Executive Producer)


Detective Charlie Crews has spent years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Now Crews must face the world that he left behind and that left him behind. Dealing with the changes that occurred while he was away, and while trying to put the past behind him, Charlie returns to the job he loves. But it’s not going to be an easy return as Charlie is partnered up with a jaded detective, Dani Reese. With Charlie’s new take on life, and his new insight into the little things, Charlie gains a new view on crime as he strives to get back the life he once led.

News & Notes

22 December 2006 –

From the Hollywood Reporter: “Damian Lewis has been tapped to play the lead on NBC’s drama pilot Life.”

A description of various characters and storyline from Manhattan Theatre Source:

“Pilot “Merit Badge” 1 Hour Drama NBC Universal / NBC
[TED EARLY] In his 50s, he’s an ex-CEO who served time for insider trading. While in prison, he was befriended / protected by Billy Crews who saved his life. He now lives in a room over Billy’s garage and handles his
settlement money…
[CONSTANCE GRIFFITHS] 30 years old and professional, she is Crews’ attorney and friend. After Crews’ release, she meets with him to find out if he’ll be attending his dad’s wedding. Clearly, there’s some chemistry here, and despite the fact that Constance is married, she admits that given different circumstances, they could have had a chance at getting together…
[JENNIFER CONOVER] 33, a pretty young woman, she is Crews’ ex-wife. Seen on tape being interrogated about her husband, she speaks softly, unnerved by the questioning…
STORY LINE: Recently paroled from prison after being exonerated for a crime he didn’t commit, Detective Billy Crews is back on the force, partnered with the gritty, edgy but also vulnerable Dani Reese…”

From “Shoot Dates: Early January, 2007 … Dani is a detective, Billy’s newly assigned partner. Tough on the outside, gritty, closed-off, cynical but with a sexy edge, Dani is not a big talker – especially to Billy whom she initially considers a liability. A former drug addict, clean now for twenty one months, Dani has her own battles to wage. She’s alternately infuriated and intrigued by Billy, but willing to give the partnership a shot.”

02 January 2007 – A description of Billy Crews from Manhattan Theatre Source: “35 years old, something of an enigma, Billy Crews is back on the force after
serving time for a crime he didn’t commit. Exonerated after doing a lengthy stint behind bars, he’s something of a
changed man. Billy is philosophical in nature, focused, unorthodox, with a child-like awe for all the new
techological gizmos, but with a gritty practicality when it comes to solving a case. Grappling with inner demons,
determined to keep his anger in check, Billy Crews uses healthy doses of humor and inappropriate honesty to get
through the day. After what he has been through, he finds everyday life more than a little bit funny. A cop to the
core, Billy is ready to embrace his new-found freedom, his work, and connect with his rather touchy, closed-off
new partner. He’s also got a thing for fresh fruit. Apparently, he didn’t get much of it while incarcerated, and he’s
making up for lost time …”

26 January 2007 – This casting call list seems to indicate the pilot may start shooting Feb 12 in LA and includes a long list & descriptions of several guest- and co-stars.

01 February 2007 – The pilot episode of Life is scheduled to film at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood from 12 February 12 – 8 March.

16 February 2007 – In addition to some script changes the schedule for shooting the program has been delayed and will start on February 20th and run through March 12th. If the pilot is picked up the serial program will air on US television on the NBC network.

22 February 2007 – An article in Variety seems to indicate a title change to Set for Life.

5 Mar 2007 – This Los Angeles Times article indicates that the pilot for Life was partly filmed in the Silver Lake section of east Los Angeles, a somewhat rough neighborhood that is currently undergoing a revival.

24 March 2007 – Earlier this week NBC invited press and television industry professionals to a preview of programs planned for the fall season; the clips and interviews for Life included this comment from director David Semel “We’ve been trying to get him (Damian Lewis) to do television for years and finally got him to do this pilot.”

British actor Damian Lewis stayed in character during the interview and spoke with an American accent as he answered questions and talked about how much he likes his character.

31 Mar 2007 – It appears that NBC has kept the original title of Life for the program (rather than Set For Life as previously reported by Variety) but the name of the leading character played by Damian Lewis is still unclear. Names that have been given for the “police officer who is back on the force after wrongful imprisonment” include: Billy Crews, Charlie Crews, and most recently Billy Pearce.

NBC will announce their new fall season on or around May 14th so it will become known at that time (if not sooner) whether or not “Merit Badge – the pilot for Life – was picked up and if Damian Lewis will be back in Los Angeles soon to film additional episodes.

3 Apr 2007 – Two additional scripts have been ordered for Life so that shooting can begin quickly if the series gets picked up.

As previously reported by the Los Angeles Times, part of the pilot episode (featuring Damian Lewis and Sarah Shahi) was filmed on location in Silver Lake, a revitalized part of east LA that still has some “rough” aspects.

Damian Lewis is very believable as a police officer (and he didn’t have to change his hair color for the role!)

25 Apr 2007 – In a message sent to the Damian Lewis Yahoo! Group members, Damian Lewis’s assistant Melissa said of Damian “Of course he is waiting to hear about ‘Life’ and will be flying out to New York for the big network announcement on May 21st. Fingers crossed.”

1 May 2007 – Several names have been reported for the police officer portrayed by Damian Lewis in Life but his associate Melissa has now confirmed that the character is called “Charlie Crews”.

11 May 2007 – NBC has added Life to its Fall schedule.

The one sheet.

14 May 2007 –
Damian Lewis was in New York City today for the NBC Upfront announcement of their fall schedule. Life will air on Wednesday nights at 10 PM (Eastern Time).

Episodes of Life will also air on the USA Channel shortly after they are televised on NBC.

NBC’s official site with trailer, clips, interviews and stills.

22 May 2007 – From Variety: “Daniel Sackheim is leaving “House” for “Life.” Hyphenate has inked a new two-year deal with NBC Universal Television Studio that calls for him to direct and exec produce the studio’s new Peacock drama “Life.” He’s spent the last several seasons on the NBC U-produced Fox hit “House.” … Rand Ravich wrote and exec produced the “Life” pilot and will continue in that role for the series, along with exec producer Far Shariat.”

03 July 2007 – NBC is now running primetime, promotional advertisements for Life.

Damian Lewis and his Life co-stars Adam Arkin and Sarah Shahi will appear as panelists at the Television Critics Association’s Summer Press Tour which takes place at the Beverly Hilton from July 10th – 26th (the dates/times of the NBC panels are not yet known.)

05 July 2007 –

According to the Hollywood Reporter actor Brent Sexton has been added to the cast of NBC’s upcoming drama Life as a regular cast member; he plays the ex-partner of Detective Charlie Crews (Damian Lewis). Also, actress Claudia Black has been cast in Life as Jennifer Conover, Charlie’s ex-wife.

08 July 2007 – Brian Ford Sullivan of the Futon Critic has published a review of Life (spoiler warning!) which includes the news that Damian Lewis’s Band of Brothers co-star Michael Cudlitz (Sgt. Randleman) will make a guest appearance in the first episode.