If you have not watched “Life” and “Chuck” on NBC this year, you are missing a treat. These new shows are among the few which show promise in yet another year full of disappointing debuts. This year is even more complicated due to the writer’s strike. Shows which may have had a chance may be shelved as they are forced into early reruns.
“Life” revolves around the exploits of Detective Charlie Crews (played by Damian Lewis of “Band of Brothers”), a cop who has spent 12 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. (Specifically the murder of a friend and business partner and his wife and their five-year-old son. There is a daughter who survived, and her whereabouts are part of the mystery.) After DNA proves Charlie’s innocence, he is released, given a place as detective within the LAPD, and agrees to a multi-million dollar settlement. His new partner is recovering alcoholic Dani Reese (played by Sarah Shahi), whose father may play a key role in Charlie’s false imprisonment. Handling Charlie’s money is Ted Earley (played by the irascible Adam Arkin), a former cell mate who did time for insider trading.
The cases are not terribly original in “Life.” However, Charlie’s obsession with finding the truth about who actually committed the crime for which he was imprisoned is captivating. As he discovers a clue, he takes it to his Conspiracy Wall. With each clue he makes another connection. He has also received help from unlikely sources, such as a Russian mafiaso. Charlie is discouraged in his pursuit by his attorney, Constance Griffiths (played by Brooke Langton). She reminds him that part of his settlement agreement states that he will not communicate with members of the LAPD who were involved in his case. He summarily ignores her advice, with sometimes disastrous results.
One of the unique characteristics of “Life” is Charlie’s incessant use of Zenisms. Dani may be speaking to him about a case, and he will answer with an obscure statement which has meaning to no one but him. Apparently Charlie learned to practice Zen while in prison, and still takes great comfort in the words and thoughts. These phrases make for an interesting and more in-depth dialog. They also make for hilarious communication, both spoken and silent between Charlie and Dani.
“Life” can be seen on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. Central Time on NBC. Due to the writer’s strike production of the show has been halted, but there is a least one more new episode to come. Afterward, you can catch up on the show by watching the reruns.
“Chuck” is another of my favorite new shows. “Chuck” is an action comedy starring Zachary Levi (“Less Than Perfect” “Big Mama’s House 2”) as Charles Bartowski. Chuck is a computer geek working for the Buy More store in the Nerd Herd department (think the Geek Squad of Best Buy). In the first episode he opens an e-mail from his college buddy and finds his brain downloaded with “The Intercept” – a computer program full of government secrets. Now when Chuck sees certain things he “flashes” or suddenly sees large amounts of information about a person or package.
Protecting Chuck is the beautiful CIA Agent Sarah Walker played by Yvonne Strahovski. Sarah takes a job at the nearby hot dog restaurant and plays Chuck’s girlfriend as part of the ploy. Also protecting Chuck is the gun-happy NSA Agent John Casey, played by Adam Baldwin (“The X-Files” “The Patriot”). The chemistry between Chuck and Sarah is almost non-existent, but Chuck certainly wishes it were otherwise. Casey desperately tries to keep his temper intact while dealing with Chuck and his oddball group of friends and family.
Chuck lives with his doctor/sister Ellie (played by Sarah Lancaster). She truly loves her brother and doesn’t have a clue about his computer brain. Chuck’s best friend, Morgan (played by Joshua Gomez) is mixed up and clueless, but loyal to his friend.
Some of the best moments in Chuck take place in the Buy More. The employees are hardly intelligent, and seem to have very little ambition. Yet they come across as genuine and likable. There are many personality types, and you can find every one of them in real life. Chuck himself is sweet, selfless and charming. Ellie plays the perfect big sister; protective and slightly irritated at her brother at times.
“Chuck” can be seen on Mondays at 7 p,m. Central Time on NBC. Once again, the writer’s strike may delay new episodes for 2008, but there are many reruns to watch in order to catch up on the action.