Saturday, July 6, 2013

Life, Seasons 1-2 (live action TV series), via Netflix

Life is a crime show where the “twist” is that the main character, Charlie Crews, is a cop who was framed for murdering his friend and most of his friend's family. He was supposed to be imprisoned for life, but he is exonerated after 12 years. As part of his settlement, he is given a huge amount of money (maybe 50 million dollars?). He also requests, and is granted, his old job back. When asked why he doesn't just retire with his mountain of cash, he says something to the effect that he's a cop down to his bones. In reality, he wants to track down the person or people responsible for framing him.

Netflix guessed that this would be a 4-star show for me, but I think it turned out to be more a 3-star one. It wasn't bad, but, after I finished the first season, I was iffy about starting the second. The show's gimmick was only mildly interesting, and I didn't really care one way or another if I found out the full truth about who framed Charlie and why. I did end up watching the entire series, all 32 episodes, but I'd probably have been better off using that time to try a different show.

Most of the episodes were relatively self-contained mysteries, with occasional references to new information pertaining to Charlie's overall goal of figuring out who framed him. I usually liked the mysteries and the way Charlie's past experiences played a part in solving them (the one big exception was the episode that took place on tribal land, which fell back on the lazy practice of including a "vision" scene). As an ex-con, he intimately understood prison culture and the effect being locked up can have on a person. He also still had a few “friends” in prison who occasionally came in handy.

One aspect of the show's gimmick that I haven't mentioned yet is Charlie's supposed Zen attitude. This aspect of the show seemed stronger during the first season, although, even then, I often thought some of his “Zen” statements were more an attempt to mess with the heads of those around him than anything else.

As far as the police work went, yes, I know that cop shows, or any show about a particular profession, are notorious for getting things wrong (or, to put it a better way, relying on artistic license a lot). However, I think this show may have gotten things more wrong than usual. For example, in episode 3, Charlie and his partner try to badger the husband of the victim into IDing the guy who shot her. There is no lineup. They don't show him multiple photos and ask him to pick the one that looks like the shooter. They just show him that one guy and try to pressure him into saying that he's the one. Okay, so my ideas about police lineups and suspect identification are mostly based on cop shows and mystery novels, but a bit of Googling indicates that those ideas probably aren't too far off the mark. So, I'm pretty sure that, even if Charlie and his partner had been able to pressure the victim's husband into identifying the shooter, his identification wouldn't have held up in court.

Things got worse in Season 2, when Charlie and his partner got a new boss, Tidwell. Tidwell was surprised to learn that his officers didn't keep things on hand that they could plant as evidence, and his comments towards Dani Reese, Charlie's partner, should have gotten him written up for sexual harassment. I couldn't figure out why he'd even been hired in the first place.

Well, things got worse. Tidwell's sexual harassment of Dani led to a romantic relationship. Yes, you read that right. And the audience was supposed to view him as a sympathetic figure. Charlie was a little taken aback by their relationship, but he didn't object. Tidwell changed his hair for Dani, dumped his booze down the sink so she wouldn't be tempted (Dani used to have both a drinking and drug problem), and did whatever was necessary, even at the risk of being fired, to make sure she was found when one of the show's villains kidnapped her. That was nice and all, but 1) he was still her boss and 2) their relationship began with his sexual harassment of her. None of his later actions could negate any of that.

This show has the distinction of having not a single romantic relationship I could root for. I already mentioned my problems with Dani and Tidwell. There was also Charlie and his ex-wife, who divorced him while he was in prison and then remarried. I get that they had residual chemistry, but she was remarried and seemed perfectly happy with her new husband. I could have rooted for Charlie and someone new, but not Charlie and his ex-wife.

Initially, I rooted for Charlie and his lawyer...until I learned that she, too, was married. Her husband was hardly ever shown, but I got the impression that she would have divorced him in a heartbeat if Charlie had been willing to commit to her. Charlie's financial adviser, Ted Earley, was also in love with someone who was not on the dating market – the woman engaged to Charlie's father. The only relationship in this show that made me applaud was Charlie's relationship with Dani. They became close, but there was never even a hint of attraction between them. Amazing. I can't think of too many close platonic relationships between men and women on TV.

I had wondered how, and if, this show was going to have an ending (as opposed to just stopping). Those who actually enjoyed the show's various romantic relationships were left with a lot of loose ends. As far as the question of who set Charlie up and how he would be dealt with went, there was an ending, but it was extremely rushed. The big, bad villain turned into a scary child who just wanted approval and was defeated with very little effort, compared to how easily he had previously slipped out of everyone's grasp.

All in all, I hate this urge I have to try to finish everything I start. This show had its moments, but, ultimately, it wasn't worth the amount of time it took to watch it.

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