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The Insider: High on ‘Life’ and …

Dec 9, 2007  •  Post A Comment

May the presiding spirits of whatever observances are celebrated at this stock-taking time of the year—take issue with that, Bill O’Reilly and pals—reward NBC for picking up the back end of the freshman season of “Life.”
The Insider fell in like with the drama starring Damian Lewis as a cop trying to find out who framed him and sent him to prison for a multiple homicide upon watching the pilot, despite that first hour being rife with heavy-handed character schtick. Things quickly settled down enough to let the actors find their own character beats and it’s been all uphill, engrossing and enjoyable since then.
The cast of characters—a particularly apt term when applied to “Life”—revolves around Det. Charlie Crews (Mr. Lewis), whose life sentence ended abruptly with exoneration but no determination of who the real killer was, and the suspects included any number of cops. Crews also came out of prison with a huge settlement that enables him to indulge his many hard-earned whims, and an attitude that redefines passive-aggressive. He’s part bulldog, part Zen master and altogether capable of making menace a spiritual thing and spiritual stuff hilarious. He’s got a back story that is the stuff of novels—or a great sweeps “prequel” arc, if the !@#$%^&* writers strike ever gets settled. The series’ use of narrative recollections has so far only scratched the surface.
Crews is hard to resist for too long. Watching the trust and connection grow with his stunning 12-stepper of a partner (Sarah Shahi), whose cop father may be neck-deep in the skullduggery, is a treat we don’t often get on TV. He’s even chipped away at whatever is gnawing on his wary boss (Robin Weigert, all but unrecognizable to those who watched her play Calamity Jane on “Deadwood”). Then there are the attorney (Brooke Langton), who won his freedom and a bit more of his heart than is good for him, and the ex-con money wizard (Adam Arkin), who manages the millions the city settled on him and who is increasingly worried that he’s become the sidekick to a graphic-novel hero.
By the close of a two-parter that aired last week, much of the mystery had been solved but there is still much justice to be served and a young woman added to the group in need of repair.
Do whatever you can to catch up on “Life” before originals return—watch it on NBC.com or call in favors from your friends.
You won’t be disappointed.
… ‘My Cancer’
The Insider starts every day with dispatches from former “Nightline” executive producer Leroy Sievers about his second go-round with cancer. “My Cancer” began as monthly commentaries on National Public Radio in February 2006 and became a daily blog (with weekly podcast) in June 2006.
When he launched the blog, Mr. Sievers said, “I’m sure you’ll all get tired of hearing just about me, so my goal is to turn this into a real dialogue. I hope you’ll be back here tomorrow.”
But The Insider doesn’t tire of hearing from and about him—especially at the time of year when many of us could use big and little nudges to get over our more fortunate selves and listen to what others have to say.
Mr. Sievers has the disease. The treatments. He has the surgeries. He finally gets to go home. Or get the drains (just out last week). He goes nose to nose with the pain that turns nights into sleepless marathons of memorized movies and wretched infomercials that seem to loop continuously. More importantly, he has the ability to articulate what he and millions of people with cancer go through in a way that makes him part ambassador, part translator and part poet laureate. The man can write. You can sign up for his dispatches and catch up on the archive at npr.org/mycancer.
Mr. Sievers ended his blog entry last Friday by writing: “Today there’s really only one thing to say. I’m still here.”
It was a Tiny Tim moment at the start of The Insider’s day.

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