Sunday, March 11, 2018

Pilot Review: Life Sentence

Life Sentence (CW)
Premiered March 7 at 8pm

The CW has done well for itself, producing a number of series that make it a top destination for great television. Much of what it does these days involves superheroes, but there are also another hits which appeal to younger audiences while still maintaining a level of quality. This show immediately reminded me of one of the CW’s less successful series from last season, “No Tomorrow,” which followed a woman and a new man in her life who try to live every day as if it could be their last because the world will soon end. This is pretty much the opposite, since protagonist Stella has to contend with her new clean bill of health which leads to everything she thought was stable falling apart. As is often the case with shows like this, it’s bolstered most by its charming lead actress, Lucy Hale, fresh off a long run as the star of “Pretty Little Liars,” though I remember her from her supporting role on “Bionic Woman” before that. Hale is a wonderful fit for Stella, embracing all the things about life that she didn’t realize were happening and trying to have a new experience undefined by her impending death. The two most notable members of the cast aside from her are those who portray her parents. I first knew Gillian Vigman as a fantastic contributor to the underappreciated predecessor to “Modern Family,” ABC’s “Sons and Daughters,” who has since appeared on “Divorce” and “New Girl,” and I think she’ll make a great mother to Stella, experiencing her own self-discovery after years of repression. Dylan Walsh was one of the stars of “Nip/Tuck” and recently recurred on “Longmire,” and it’s good to see him in a more comic role. Part of what will define this show is how well its novelty works, and as long as Stella, who reminds me of Vanessa Hudgens’ character on last year’s cancelled “Powerless,” remains positive and ready to face life head-on, I think this show can work well.

How will it work as a series? Presumably, there’s much that Stella has missed because everyone was shielding her from what was actually going on around her, and the real hook here is the discovery process which helps Stella become a contributing member of society. I think that should remain fresh enough because of her attitude, and I’m all for seeing where it leads.
How long will it last? The reviews aren’t all that positive, much more mixed than good, and the ratings report isn’t great no matter how you spin off. Hale’s status as the anchor of a show whose audience might want to see her again on television doesn’t seem to have panned out, so at this point Stella’s future is looking much brighter than her show’s. I won’t give up hope just yet, but there’s no real reason that the CW would want to invest in a show that isn’t delivering in the way its other series are.

Pilot grade: B+

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