Tuesday, February 09, 2010

'Past Life' review: Sepinwall on TV

In today's column, I review Fox's "Past Life":
I briefly wondered if I found Fox’s reincarnation detective drama "Past Life" so silly because I don’t believe in past lives. Then I remembered that I also don’t believe that a tropical island could heal a paralyzed man’s spine or travel in time and space, yet I love "Lost." And that the idea of a man having a computer in his brain seems goofy to me, yet "Chuck" is one of my favorite shows.

More to the point, I don’t believe in any kind of psychic phenomena, yet I’ve often found "Medium" to be an effective, well-made show.

So, no, I don’t dislike "Past Life" because I’m a skeptic, but because it’s not very good.
You can read the full "Past Life" review here. Suffice it to say, this one won't be a fixture around here.


I read you every day said...

Well this show doesn't sound great but I do want to mention the fact that there are NO shows with female leads that you review. I agree with you that The Wire is absolutely the best tv of all time and Breaking Bad and Mad Men are best of the current crop. But seriously, Damages/Saving Grace/The Closer (can't think of any others right now) aren't as worthy as some others? (I don't think Tina Fey is lead of 30 Rock, maybe colead with Alec Baldwin. Same with the other comedies, they are more of ensembles.) There is a pattern. Just sayin'.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Tina Fey is absolutely, unquestionably the lead of 30 Rock.

I reviewed Damages and Saving Grace at one point, but tired of both shows for reasons having nothing to do with the gender of their protagonists. And I'll be writing regularly about Nurse Jackie and United States of Tara when those shows come back in March.

Ben S said...

Hey Alan, just wanted to note that Nicholas Bishop is actually Australian. He was born in England but moved to Oz as an infant. Your point about him having to concentrate on his American accent is still valid though.

WilforkForFood said...

I'd almost tune in just to watch Richard Schiff but based on your review my suspicion that the show itself just isn't worth it is probably correct.

The Bravo run of the West Wing is in its last couple seasons right now and it's hard enough watching Schiff deal with how poorly they wrote his character during the final stretch of the show (the space shuttle plot specifically). Don't think I could watch him in a role where he's jut picking up a paycheck.

njames said...

From the very first preview of this show, I have been baffled by FOX picking this up. Were there no other choices for midseason? Do they want to pick up something that will fail, so as to make Lie to Me & Fringe happy for renewing them over this reincarnation detective show?

Your review is EXACTLY how I thought this should was going to be. Pass.

ellie said...

Well, crap. I'm a huge fan of Richard Schiff, so I'm glad he's getting work, but this sounds as bad as I was expecting. Crap.

I guess I can hope for a retooling a la P&R, but seems unlikely. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

I've noticed a trend of people getting after Alan for things that aren't true. What up with that?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Hey Alan, just wanted to note that Nicholas Bishop is actually Australian.

Thanks for pointing this out. It has since been fixed.

Anonymous said...

Even if it was good, I wouldn't get attached to it because it clearly has too much stacked against it to make it. That said, I was surprised to not hate it. It wasn't good, but it didn't suck. Nice to see Richard Schiff even if just for a few minutes and the second half was a huge improvement over the very lame first half. Were it not for Schiff I might have tuned out, but I stuck with it. I realize that "I didn't hate it" is hardly a glowing review, but based on the reaction of critics, it's better than I was expecting.

SoCal said...

You also cover Cougartown, Alan!

Boricua in Texas said...

It was simply terrible, unimaginative and trite. I was particularly annoyed at the barrage of Texas clichés: trucks, guns and the death penalty.

Unknown said...

I'm in the I'd watch anything with Richard Schiff in it camp, so I did (a little belatedly). But damn me if he wasn't even really IN this show anyway. What a waste.

As a New Zealander I've actually seen Nicholas Bishop in a number of Australian shows; he's been an actor there for ten years.

He's actually been reasonably good in some of them, heck he had a MUCH more capable on screen presence in the soap Home and Away; so for the life of me I can't understand how he has been dumbed down so completely by the writer and director of this dirge.

Word of advice to all US Television casting managers:

"Putting an experienced Australian actor in your new US network drama is NOT an immediate guarantee of success. Simon Baker was a (lucky) fluke. And even he bombed well before that success. Ryan Kwanten just had the body for True Blood, the acting there is well - Truly bloody ...something. ANY good actor will do, but you have to first have a GOOD show. You don't, scrap it and move on, and stop destroying promising careers."

Meanwhile apparently following the Pilot of the show, Richard Schiff has given an exclusive interview on www.sometvreviewsitenobodylooksat.com

"In a Past Life I was a pretty darn good (and respected) actor named Richard Schiff. I got seriously underused in a bad story arch to end a great show called "The West Wing", and then even more seriously underused in what could have been a truly fantastic character on an almost equally great show called "Burn Notice".

Now in this new life, clearly nobody knows who I am any more, since as the greatest talent (by far) on my new show, I'm on screen for a handful of seconds and in each of them I'm sure you can clearly see the utter joy I have in both the script and the giant leap forward (to death) this is in my career.

But I'm not bitter, I'm getting paid... and did I mention I was once a great actor named Richard Schiff in a Past Life?"