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HTF DVD REVIEW: Life: Season One



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#1 of 3 Matt Hough

Matt Hough

    Executive Producer

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Posted September 01 2008 - 01:21 AM



Life: Season One
Directed by David Semel et al

Studio: Universal
Year: 2007-2008
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 476 minutes
Rating: NR
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH
MSRP: $ 29.99

Release Date: September 2, 2008
Review Date: September 1, 2008


The Series

3.5/5

NBC’s Life is a quirky cops and criminals caper show that never takes itself too seriously. Featuring a rather eccentric lead detective with a single-minded determination to find the truth, Life wasn’t a runaway audience hit last season but built enough good will from respectful critical reviews and quality episodes to garner for itself a second season. It will be interesting to see how its producers poke and prod the show in an attempt to find a broader audience appeal in its upcoming season.

Los Angeles cop Charlie Crews (Damian Lewis) has just been released from prison after being wrongly convicted for the murders of a family of friends. Having a multi-million dollar settlement and his job reinstated as the conditions of his release, Charlie goes back to his job as a homicide detective in a department that’s at best indifferent to his return and in some cases openly hostile to his presence. He’s paired with low-woman-on-the-totem-pole detective Dani Reese (Sarah Shahi) who’s recovering from her own substance abuse problems and being prodded by precinct lieutenant Karen Davis (Robin Weigert) to find out what she can about Charlie so the department can get rid of him. Also in Charlie’s orbit are his former partner, his lawyer (Brooke Langton), and fellow ex-con Ted Earley (Adam Arkin) who went to prison for insider trading and now advises Charlie on his investments.

Though each episode finds the two detectives investigating a different homicide in typical procedural fashion, the show’s uniqueness (and a possible reason that it didn’t catch on with the public to a great degree) revolves around Charlie’s on-going investigation into his own original arrest. He’s determined to ferret out the truth of who actually murdered his friends twelve years ago, and that continuing story arc each week would possibly throw many people for a loop who hadn‘t been with the show from the very beginning. There are also desaturated interview segments with those directly involved with the case which periodically interrupt the weekly investigation at hand. Moreover, despite his likeably unconventional approach to law enforcement and detective work, Charlie is sometimes stubbornly odd in his practices of Zen and his devotion to fresh fruit, and in the first few episodes, partner Dani is glumly unpleasant to be around. It’s also unsettling to see the innocent Charlie treated so shabbily by former cohorts even though he’s been completely exonerated.

Damian Lewis has lots of star power in the leading role of Charlie, and he’s far and away the best thing in the show. Sarah Shahi’s Dani grows on you as the series progresses, but one wishes wonderful actress Robin Weigert were being given more to do as the boss. Adam Arkin’s use on the show as friend and money mentor to Charlie has also not been exploited to maximum benefit though, to be fair, the season was cut short by the writers’ strike and his character’s development could have been stymied in the process.

Here are the eleven season one episodes spread over the three discs in this set. Names in parentheses indicate the participants in the audio commentaries for those episodes.

1 - Merit Badge (Rand Ravich, Far Shariat, Dan Sackheim, Damian Lewis, Sarah Shahi)
2 - Tear Asunder
3 - Let Her Go
4 - What They Saw (my favorite episode of the season)
5 - The Fallen Woman
6 - Powerless
7 - A Civil War
8 - Farthingale (Rand Ravich, Far Shariat, Dan Sackheim)
9 - Serious Control Issues (Rand Ravich, Far Shariat, Adam Arkin)
10 - Dig a Hole (Rand Ravich, Far Shariat, Dan Sackheim, Damian Lewis, Sarah Shahi)
11 - Fill It Up (Dan Sackheim, Damian Lewis, Sarah Shahi) (a great season finale)


Video Quality

4/5

The show is broadcast on NBC in 1080i, and these down converted anamorphically enhanced transfers look very good indeed. Though there is occasional softness in some shots and blacks aren’t always as deep as on other series, color saturation is handled well with superb flesh tones on display. Each episode has been divided into 4 chapters.

Audio Quality

3.5/5

The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix finds occasional use for the surrounds, but much more could be done with them, the mix being decidedly front centric. Sometimes, however, the LFE channel is used well making one wish for additional exploitation of all the show’s surround opportunities.

Special Features

3/5

Though there are audio commentaries for five of the eleven episodes, all are rather uninteresting conversations. Often comments are labored, and there are gaps of silence in all of them. None offered scintillating discussions or interesting insider tidbits on the show’s production.

There are 3 deleted scenes connected to the shows they’ve been excised from, but none of them contain anything of real value. They only run a total of 2 minutes but are in anamorphic widescreen.

The blooper reel does feature star Damian Lewis playing “The William Tell Overture” on his teeth, but it’s otherwise too brief to offer many laughs. It runs only 1 ¼ minutes in nonanamorphic letterbox.

Life Begins” is an 8 ¼-minute overview of the show narrated by stars Damian Lewis and Sarah Shahi giving their takes on the stories and their characters’ journeys during season one. It’s in nonanamorphic widescreen.

A multi-angle deleted scene takes a 2-minute sequence from the pilot episode and allows the user to watch it in the original performance, two different views from beside and behind the camera, and then the final broadcast version. These are in anamorphic widescreen.

“Fruits of Lifeis a 45-second montage of fruit scenes from the first season of episodes.

“Still Lifepresents three slideshows of clips from season one episodes. The action slideshow runs 45-seconds, the slides dealing with “Fallen Woman” last 1 ¼ minutes, and the show for “Close to Minty” aka “What They Saw” run 30 seconds.

Life’s Questions Answered” is a featurette that should definitely NOT be watched until you’ve seen all eleven season one episodes. Many spoilers to the identity of various nefarious individuals are revealed in this 5 ½-minute revelation from the show’s final episodes of the season.

The disc offers previews for Eureka, Battlestar Galactia, Heroes, Columbo, and Murder, She Wrote.


In Conclusion

3.5/5 (not an average)

Life had an above average freshman season and one looks forward to additional mysteries and more adventures with fresh fruit with Charlie and Dani in season two.


Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC

#2 of 3 Scott_J

Scott_J

    Screenwriter

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Posted September 02 2008 - 01:48 PM

This is a great show, glad they picked it up for a second season. I'll probably pick this up when I can get it for $15-20.

#3 of 3 RayRho

RayRho

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Posted September 05 2008 - 04:04 AM

Thanks for the review. I've heard that the music on the DVD is not the same as the broadcast shows. Can anyone confirm this?