Life is here and it’s pretty much as it”s always been. All TV detectives need a niche: Columbo was the working-class detective; Morse was the crossword-solving detective; Richard Griffiths was the pie-eating detective; and so on.
Life, looking for its niche, has opted for an amalgam: on the one-hand, Damian Lewis is the Zen detective. He doesn’t necessarily want answers, since there are no answers, only questions. But on the other hand, he also wants to kick the asses of those m*th*rs who framed him and put him in prison for over a decade.
It’s an odd hybrid, no?
It’s also a little slow. Much like the Comic Strip Presents…‘ gourmet detective (two recipes and a murder each episode), we have one crime (usually a murder) and a little bit of the over-arching “kick their asses” plot each episode. The crime, like Raines before it, is never that spectacular but is instead supposed to make you think about life, victims and so on. The “kick their asses” plot is very much a drip, drip endeavour, with bare minimum amounts creeping out each episode.
There are a few of sparks of life in it: Adam Arkin continues to be of interest as the comedy relief former prisonmate who now handles Lewis’ books – it’s good to have some sort of personality to the show, when Lewis is busy trying to destroy his own; Lewis’ occasional relapse into prison behaviour; and the show’s general smartness, with the episodes all at least pleasantly thoughtful.
However, much like a long dose of meditation, it’s very possible to fall asleep during Life, something that almost happened to me during the third episode, which crossed from thoughtful into merely boring. So you’re going to need to be in your happy place to find joy in it, I suspect.
The Medium is Not Enough declares Life a two or “Partial Caruso” on The Carusometer quality scale. A Partial Caruso corresponds to “a show with two walk-on cameos by David Caruso as Buddhist detective. After unnecessarily shaving his head, he’ll snarl all his koens, eventually trying to ad lib the phrase ‘What’s the sound of one finger pulling a trigger in the woods?’. Fortunately, the producers confuse him by telling him that ‘Water which is too pure has no fish’, forcing him to leave the set while he tries to find a salmon and a Brita water filter and leaving them the chance to hire someone else.”