Review: Life Sentence 1×1 (US: The CW)

Why Don't You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go Out and Do Something Less Boring Instead?

Lucy Hale in The CW's Life Sentence
Lucy Hale in The CW's Life Sentence

In the US: Wednesdays, 9pm, The CW

Remember Why Don’t You…? Maybe not. It was a 70s/80s UK kids’ activity show that almost uniquely exhorted its audience to not watch it – ‘why don’t you…?’ being short for ‘Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go Out and Do Something Less Boring Instead?’

I say ‘almost uniquely’ because I’m starting to get the impression that US TV network The CW now has a similar message for its only slightly older audience. Or maybe it’s just feeling a bit maudlin and wondering if it should set up a ‘bucket list’.

Last season, we had No Tomorrow, a pleasing little show in which a previously staid young woman discovers the fun of living life to the fullest when she meets a man who thinks the world is about to end. ‘Live life like it might be your last day on Earth – because it might be!’ the show enthused. Well, okay, but I might not be watching The CW if it was my last day on Earth. Sorry guys.

That, ultimately, did have a resolution of sorts once it was cancelled, but new CW show Life Sentence feels almost like a continuation. It sees Pretty Little Liars‘ Lucy Hale playing a young woman who had been diagnosed with cancer. Her family rallied around. Her brother encouraged her to live life to the fullest. So she did. She went on trips to Paris. She married. She’s just about ready to have her ‘living funeral’ to say goodbye to everyone she loves when she gets shocking news.

She’s going to live. Her cancer is cured.


Apparently not. And not just for her either. Sure, everyone’s happy that she’s going to live. It’s just that to make her life as perfect as possible before she died, they may have made some sacrifices. And hidden a few things from her.

Yep, it turns out that they should have switched off their TV sets and done something less boring instead. And now they’re going to.

Life Sentence

Death becomes her

Interestingly for a star vehicle, Hale probably gets the least interesting story and the least to do in the whole piece. She had cancer. Now she doesn’t and so she has to work out who she is, what she wants to do and what everyone’s been keeping from her.

Meanwhile, everyone else in the family gets to be much more interesting. Dad Dylan Walsh might have spent a little too much on helping Hale to live life to the max, so he’s got financial problems. He’s got even more problems now, since wife Gillian Vigman is leaving him for another woman (Claudia Rocafort), she having only stuck with him for Hale’s sake. Sister Brooke Lyons sacrificed a college scholarship and her dream career so she could help look after Hale; she also had kids earlier than she’d have liked to give her parents something else to focus on. Meanwhile, brother Aiden is an aimless, womanising drug dealer.

Lastly, there’s Hale’s new husband (Sinbad‘s Elliot Knight), who might have lied about a few of his likes and dislikes so his wife’s last months on Earth weren’t all about him.

Life doesn’t

That’s a whole bunch of stories that have almost nothing to do with Hale and are a lot more interesting than her wandering around town, learning to be a barista and organising lame parties for her doctor, which is more or less all she gets to do in the first episode. You almost feel like Hale should have had a bit more than a montage at the beginning to depict her cancer days, since she got to do a lot more interesting things when she was sick than afterwards. She should be going around, full of energy, bringing joy to others through the benefit of her experiences. Instead, she’s pouring coffee and picking up her mum’s gin bottles.

Indeed, the whole show feels like it’s little more than a relatively decent idea for a relatively watchable Hallmark movie, rather than a full-blown TV series, since by the end of the episode, there’s almost no need to watch any more of Life Sentence. Everyone’s going off on their own different stories. Will Hale help them on their journeys? I’m not sure there’s any real reason to care. They’ll probably work it all out without her.

Basically, switch off your television set and do something less boring than watching Life Sentence. Or just switch channel. There’s much better TV out there.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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