Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pilot Review: Past Life

Past Life (FOX)
Premiered February 9 at 9pm

The premise of this show ensures that it starts off at a considerable disadvantage. Unlike shows like “The X-Files,” “Millennium,” “Night Stalker,” or “Fringe,” this show doesn’t predicate itself on the universal existence of supernatural phenomena, only on the idea of reincarnation as a definitively true thing. It still sets itself up as a procedural drama along the lines of “The Forgotten,” where it’s not quite cops who are doing the investigation and their methods aren’t exactly subject to legal approval. It does bear some similarity to FOX’s other new midseason entry, “Human Target,” but it’s inferior in so many ways. The tone of the whole team is uniformly grumpy and disgruntled, but none of them seem truthfully good at what they do, and it’s almost just sheer luck that enables them to solve their first big case. It’s hard to decide which of the two lead cast members is more annoying. Kelli Giddish’s Southern drawl isn’t the only thing that’s unbearable about her, and her incessant need to try to be witty and charming gives her accent a run for its money. Nicholas Bishop’s laidback, lazy attitude doesn’t do his boring character any favors, and besides his inability to operate a video camera too effectively, he doesn’t seem to contribute anything but skepticism to the team. It’s sad to see Richard Schiff of “West Wing” fame saddled with such an unexciting role, but his gruff exterior is still probably the most sufferable part of the show. It doesn’t help that the acting from the guest stars in this episode is uniformly awful. The dialogue was rather poor throughout, and took a dismal nosedive when lead character Kate’s mother uttered the line “husbands are like Jesus; just another white man telling me what to do.” The use of the Coldplay song “42” with the all-too-appropriate lyrics “those who are dead are not dead, just living in my head” towards the end of the episode just sealed this show’s fate as hokey in an unsalvageable way. Give me a break.

How will it work as a series? Every episode, this crackpot duo will have to convince a new set of skeptics that they really believe in reincarnation, and some lost soul and his or her loved ones will be able to come to terms with events of the past. Eventually, protagonist Price will probably even encounter his dead wife. This is just like any other procedural tweaked with the twist of victims being reincarnated. If that’s your thing, tune in. Otherwise, don’t bother.
How long will it last? This show didn’t premiere in its regular time slot, and it doesn’t seem to have performed too well or too poorly. Still, this show doesn’t seem like it has the life in it to stay on the air for a while, especially compared to all of FOX’s other fare. I think it should last out this season but that will be it. Look for it to be reincarnated soon in the form of other shows with the same stars.

Pilot review: F