The last two Wednesday nights, the remote has settled on NBC for nearly two full episodes of "Life." Very pretentious title, don't you think? But I like the cereal and the board game (although I never saw the Eddie Murphy/Martin Lawrence movie) so I thought I would take a look at this show.
At first I thought it was a cop show, featuring Damian Lewis as the classic "Tough Guy with Issues" and his partner, Sarah Shahi, as "Hot Babe in Leather Coat." And this formula has worked for me from NYPD Blue all the way to Law and Order: Criminal Intent. But from the outset, Life's premise was stretched way too thin by making Lewis a cop restored to the force after serving time in prison for a crime he didn't commit. Wouldn't it be more realistic for him to get a huge cash settlement and then a show on Court TV? I mean, isn't he just a little worried that his colleagues don't really trust him?
Apparently not, so he spends lots of time trying to solve the bank job he went down for, ending each episode by drawing lines on the big flow chart in his basement that documents his investigation. Which has come to include his partner, whose father was on the SWAT team during the robbery. She is also a recovering alcoholic and speaks fluent Farsi, which really came in handy on last night's show, where our heroic duo saved a Persian man who was laundering drug money through an offshore account held by his lover, a single mother whose son kidnapped him and killed two of his friends and one off his own accomplices before being taken out by a sniper. The kidnappers almost got away, but the cops cracked the case by having the man's sister play a video game on his computer because she was the only one young enough to have the thumb dexterity to get to the tenth level and open the encrypted account records.
And every now and then Adam Arkin wandered onscreen with a buxom redhead who took him to a solar enegy farm, where they ran out of gas (oh the irony). This subplot confused me so much I thought I had accidently changed the channel, which is of course exactly what I should have done.
Obviously, I joined this show late, and either I keep missing the two-minute "Previously on Life" summaries that are de rigeur on serial dramas, or Life is pushing the envelope to daring extremes by not having them, but I don't think any amount of backfill would catch me up enough to my satisfaction.
I am all for television that makes you think, and quirky characters, but this is plot as jigsaw puzzle, one of those ridiculous thousand-piece numbers that pictures two polar bears on an iceberg, so that once you've put the eyes and noses together, you've got 992 pieces of white cardboard that fall into place only by happenstance.
"Yes," I hear the fans saying. "It's complicated. Just like life. Get it?"
I do get it. But nobody's life is that complicated. Parts of this show are very compelling. It's well shot, and the two leads are pretty good, although both are too pretty to be real police officers. But I think Adam Arkin seals it for me. After two episodes, I have no idea who he is or what he is doing on the show.
Looks like it's NBA doubleheaders on TNT for Wednesdays in the foreseeable future.