Monday, October 06, 2008

Life, "The Business of Miracles": Crews, Bustamante

Spoilers for "Life" coming up just as soon as I watch some "Top Chef" with my chimp...

Ah, now there's the "Life" I remembered so fondly.

After a season premiere that spent too much time on Charlie Crews For Dummies, followed by a second episode with a case as confusing as it was uninteresting, episode three finally lands in the very narrow but rewarding target that the show was hitting towards the end of its abbreviated first season.

The tableau of the frozen, blue scientist was another one of those beautifully macabre crime scene images the show does so well. (And Crews accidentally shattering the guy was funnier for me than it may be for you, since I watched this episode a few weeks before "Heroes" tried a similar gag.) The juxtaposition of the activists (who treat animals like people) and the scientists (who treat people like animals) was nice, and led to some sparkling Crews/Reese dialogue. I was simultaneously amused and horrified by the notion of "Jim shoes" (shoes stitched from the skin of the group's dead founder), and I got a kick out of Reese asking whether Crews' shiner was from the monkey or another punch, as well as her explaining that sleeping with a woman with two different names "doesn't count as a threesie." Sarah Shahi's turned out to be a fine deadpan comedian, in addition to her usual role as Damian Lewis' straight woman.

The ongoing storylines also got some traction. Though Crews and Jen making out in the back seat of her car in episode two felt a bit rushed, Crews making an ass of himself to get "permission" from her new husband was very much in character. And Reese going against her father -- in the same episode where we're reminded how much steering wheel-banging DNA they share -- was just as interesting a development as Jack Reese being warned, "Not for nothing, there was six. There is five. There could just as easily be four." (Was Kyle Hollis the sixth? Rachel Seybolt's real dad? The detective who worked the case?)

On the other hand, I'm not loving the Donal Logue character, despite my previously-stated affection for Logue himself. His lust for Reese is just too blatant, even when wrapped in dialogue that the writers meant as double entendres. Unless the payoff is going to be that Logue doesn't want to get into Reese's pants, it's not a great intro for the new boss.

Finally, is there a worse possible character witness in the world than Charlie Crews? Sure, he's great if you need a box full of unapproved cancer pills for your kid, but when you need him to show up, on time, and sober, and be able to speak coherently about your good qualities, the guy's just an epic failure. Sigh...

What did everybody else think?


Mac said...

In Donal Logue's defense, who wouldn't lust for Sarah Shahi?

bill said...

Episodes like this and "Farthingale" make it one of my favorite shows and I'll miss it when it's canceled.

Anonymous said...

At this point they should do with Logue what they did on The Wire -- show him in the background of a gay bar scene. Then all the "lusting" would be kind of funny.

Good episode. I hope Friday's is solid as well.

Anonymous said...

I'd say this was my second favorite episode, after "Fill it Up" from season 1.

I don't mind Donal Logue's character. It's more the greasy hair than what he's actually saying that makes him seem sleazy. I wouldn't be surprised if he's connected to the conspiracy.

Also, I wonder what "cause" Jen was involved in she was younger.

bill said...

I forget, was it liquid nitrogen? Aside from what I assume is the impossibility of freezing just by inhalation -- dipping him in a giant vat of Liquid nitrogen I could understand -- wouldn't you know what you're breathing or just your lungs freeze up first and you pass out?

Because I've had food prepared with liquid nitrogen and you know you're eating something cold. In particular, I'm remembering the caramel corn kernels and the table of us blowing cold steam out our nostrils.

And frozen means melting and all those broken chips of the dead scientist are just going to thaw faster. At that point I don't thinking bagging is going to work, I'd call for the wet-dry vac.

justjoan123 said...

First of all bill, thank you so much for that image....not!
And second, I cannot express how very much I loved the staging and performance of the dinner table scene chez Jack. Talk about cutting it - tension, that is -- with a knife.
Love the show, hate the Donal. Dreading where all this -- the tension and the Donal -- appears to be leading Reese.

Anonymous said...

I loved the first season of Life enough to watch it again just before the second started. Hate to be a hater, but I'm starting to lose my love. First of the irritations is that nearly every episode has something that snaps me out of my disbelief. Bill already pointed out the implausibility of a big breath of liquid NO2 evenly instafreezing an entire human body, and of that body staying perfectly frozen until the cops show up. Like the guy with no lower half in "Farthinggale," it's a great tableau, but not remotely believable. (Did you notice that nothing else in Farthinggale's kitchen seemed even very much scorched?) The glaringly computer-generated effect of the frozen body breaking into pieces just capped it. This stuff isn't a deal-breaker for me--I loved last year's season finale, even though I wondered where all the people in mid-day downtown L.A. were while Crews had a spectacular car crash, killed two thugs, and moved a bound Kyle Hollis from the trunk of his upside-down car to an SUV, apparently without anyone noticing.
But it starts to make "Life" the kind of pleasure you feel you have to apologize for.

Donal Logue is an improvement over Robin Weigart because her character had neither humor nor imagination, and there's only so much you can do with a character like that. Logue's character has more for the actor to play with, and I expect there are some surprises in store.

I hope Jen Reese starts to lighten up a little. Her dour attitude is more of a drag than a counterbalance. As for Crews, never has the hero of a show deserved a punch in the face so much.

Anonymous said... episode of the season so far and very much in the spirirt of season 1.

Now Donal Logue can be hit or miss for me but I am actually enjoying him as Captain Tidwell. I am feeling a nice 3-way chemistry of actors growing between Logue, Shahi and Lewis. (I sense their could be some very funny interplay, similar to the Jeff Donovan-Gabrielle Anwar-Bruce Campbell dynamic that drives "Burn Notice" so successfully).

I think for the tone of this second season to be still dark in that Crews is searching for the people who set him up, but lighter now that he at least nabbed the real killers in season 1, the switch from the first season captain to Tidwell was a smart decision.

Now sometimes, switching out a "boss" character can be a horrible decision - see "Bones" switching from the engimatic Jonathan Adams to the unwatchably horrible Tamara Taylor as Dr. Saroyan.

This move on life to Tidwell, is more in line with the move NBC made three years ago when the reliably solid Jamey Sheridan was replaced on "Criminal Intent" but the more sardonic Eric Bogosian as Captain Danny Ross, which I criticized at first but has turned out to be a boon for the show. Bogosian brings more to the table mixing humor with seriousness, than even Sheridan did.

And I second what Mac said at the beginning...who wouldn't lust for Sarah Shahi? She's incredibly sexy.

Jon88 said...

Shahi lust: ditto. In spite of the disappointing feature interview yesterday at Engaged? Sigh.

The sixth: the Roger Aaron Brown character who was executed by the other members of the cabal last season. Is Kyle Hollis part of that group, or just working for them? I'm thinking the latter.

monic said...

Oh, I adored this episode, this felt like the show was coming back to its roots. I loved the humor and the beats and the partnership that's growing stronger every episode. I love this pacing so much better than the previous two episodes.

This is what Life is about.

Anonymous said...

Now sometimes, switching out a "boss" character can be a horrible decision - see "Bones" switching from the engimatic Jonathan Adams to the unwatchably horrible Tamara Taylor as Dr. Saroyan.

Totally disagree with this. Adams is a good actor, but he was dry and didn't fit the tone of the show (or where the tone was going). Taylor is much better as the bridge between Booth and the "Squints" and does well with the light comedy. And she gave the show another lead female character which has helped balance-wise.

Anonymous said...

Well, Rachel, to each their own, but every "Bones" fan I know, including several of my friends, my wife, and my brother, ALL felt Jonathan Adams to Taylor was a major downgrade.

I am all for a great female character...but one who's a halfway decent actress with a recognizable personality, something I have yet to see from the stiff and annoying Taylor.

I advise you to rent the first few seasons of the defunct NBC series, "American Dreams", to see Jonathan Adams heartbreaking and heartwarming performance as Henry on that show. "Bones" went down in my opinion at the start of the 2nd season, when they made this transition.

Now it's just going down because the writing and the plotting has been downright atrocious - everything they've done with Zack has been completely and utterly ridiculous and asinine. The sudden break-up of Hodgins and Angela has been out of left field and frankly, is just annoying.

So to be fair, I have bigger issues with "Bones" these days than JUST Tamara Taylor, who I never have liked.

Kasey said...

I have to ask, because I am going insane over here...who was the first assistant, the one Charlie brings home? I know I've seen her somewhere, but I just can't place it.

And yes, this was a great episode. I do take issue with them sexing upi Shahi, though. It seems against character...I was so pleased in the first season that they chose to put her hair in a ponytail and play down the sexuality a little.

Anonymous said...

Kasey..."Life" is barely hanging by a ratings thread and they happen to have arguably one of the most beautiful woman, anywhere in Television, as their costar. The show would have been insane not to recognize how gorgeous Shahi is.

That being said, nothing has changed about the way her character acts. Still a tough gal, still rolls her eyes at Crews and last night, had a verbal smackdown with her evil daddy, right in the middle of a family dinner.

It's safe to say they haven't softened Dani Reese's personality...just her hair.

Mac said...

My one quibble is that the lead animal in this episode was clearly an ape (a young chimpanzee, I believe) and not a monkey. Stop calling apes monkeys, television!

Anonymous said...

I advise you to rent the first few seasons of the defunct NBC series, "American Dreams", to see Jonathan Adams heartbreaking and heartwarming performance as Henry on that show. "Bones" went down in my opinion at the start of the 2nd season, when they made this transition.

Well I would take your advice except it would seem silly to rent something I already own. ;) I'm a HUGE American Dreams fan -- I even have the theme song on my iPod. Adams was great on that show.

I guess we are in an to-each-her-own situation because I thought Bones hit its stride in season 2 -- focusing on the interpersonal dynamics rather than just become a run-of-the-mill procedural. (Though this season the cases have been iffier than usual, and I agree that break-up was contrived and silly.)

Frankly, I don't think changing secondary characters matter all that must in the long run. (They're sort of like VP candidates in a way.) I do get bummed for the actor/actresses. I've enjoyed both Weigert and Adams so it's a shame they were bumped out of regular gigs.

Sara Ann said...

Does anyone else find Reese Sr.'s acting terrible? He's so very, very bad, I find it jarring. Plus, the hair - is that a piece?

Ironically - and I assume this wasn't meta on her part - Shahi's acting hit a low point when she aped her daddy's steering wheel banging.

Mac said...

I think it's a wig, not a toupee. Victor Rivers has dark hair in all of his publicity photos.

Anonymous said...

Alan - great reference to California gubernatorial politics in your title to the post.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Thank you! Took more than a week, but someone finally deciphered the subject line, which I had to write as soon as I learned that the janitor was named Bustamante.

It's sad the things I put so much thought into.