The Death of ‘Life’

15 Nov

imdb.com registers a user score of 8.1 / 10 for this show after 64 votes. 64 people can’t be wrong I guess.

I had seen a few minutes of the NBC’s ‘Life’ (2007-2009) when it aired here, and then went and found something better to do. But recently a friend lent me his DVDs of the show, expressing dismay that it was cancelled after only two seasons. Having watched some of it now, and being unwilling to phone my friend to tell him personally, here are some of the possible reasons for canning it. (My friend sometimes reads this blog, and I really don’t like phones).

1. Background Music

It’s been repeated often enough how much of an influence music has on mood. There is a whole genre of YouTube video dedicated to changing the soundtrack of familiar movies in order to make comedies seem like horrors etc. My favourites include the horror version of ‘The Sound of Music’, and some of the many ‘Dumb and Dumber’-as-a-thriller versions, such as this one and this one.

Given that the role of music is so well documented, the soundtrack to ‘Life’ is baffling. It’s like instead of choosing music, they’ve just left the radio on. It’s like they’ve seen hip TV shows that have cool soundtracks with ‘the Next Big Thing’ playing over the emotional montage scene each week, but they’ve decided to go for ‘the Next Best Thing’, which is to get any pop music that was available for free, and then to put the music player on ‘shuffle’ instead of hiring a music co-ordinator.

It almost makes it worth watching the show just to be amazed at the music choices.

2. That episode with the girl in angel wings

So you’re writing a TV show, and you have this idea about the exploitation of Russian brides, and you have one of them thrown out of a tall building while wearing angel wings. So far so good. If you’re an exceptionally lazy writer, what do you do next (besides sleeping until half-an-hour before deadline)?

You litter the script with 3 fallen-angel jokes per minute.

3. That episode with the computers in it

I know very little about computers. They are quite complicated things.

You know, a lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-yous...

You know, a lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-yous…

But whoever wrote ‘Life’ is the computer-equivalent of Dürer’s woodcut drawing of a rhinoceros based entirely on 2nd-hand information. They’ve got the gist of the thing, but the details are all really sketchy.

A back-horn?

So in one episode, the following happens:

  • Detective Charlie wants to sneak into classified computer files guarded by a tech geek. So he sneakily spills energy drink onto the keyboard of one of the computers. Result? A sticky keyboard? Nope, every computer screen in the network starts flashing and scrolling like they’re running Vista. Tech guy runs in a panic to go fix them (tech guys never do this), and he leaves his own console logged in to deeply classified information.
  • Bad Kid 1 has hidden his drug selling information on his gaming console. To access it, someone has to get to level 10 of ‘Prince of Persia’. Why the heck would you do that? Every time you want to record a sale, you’ve got to play ten laborious levels of the same game? There’s not even any suggestion that this is his archive; it’s the only copy of a detailed spreadsheet, hidden behind ten game levels.
  • The cops suspect there’s something hidden in this game in the first place, because there is a file on Bad Kid’s regular computer that keeps getting referred to, and it turns out to be this reference to ‘level 10’. Why would anyone need to record a note-to-self that they’ve hidden the info there, let alone making continual reference to it? I only saw the show once (days ago), and I can remember what level it was on. He put it there and he needs a reminder?
  • They need someone who can beat 10 levels of Prince of Persia, and so they ask Tech Geek if he can. He trots out the awful cliche about how he’s thirty and still lives with his mother and has Star Trek outfits in his cupboard, so obviously he can play console games. That’s bad enough, but he then spends try after try getting no further than level 2.
  • Dectective Charlie — because he’s an idiot savant — notices that Bad Kid’s sister is watching them play and making ghost movements with her thumbs as though she’s holding the controller. Instead of admitting her to hospital for a neurological disorder, he deduces that she’s actually brilliant at Prince of Persia. Who ghost-plays console games when they’re standing around watching??
  • When she reaches Level 10, the spreadsheet automatically splits the game apart and shows all its secrets. What if someone just wants to play Level 11? Also, he couldn’t code a hard-to-see easter-egg-type button to access the spreadsheet, rather than letting his illegal document reveal itself by default? Doesn’t seem that secure. What if his sister and her friends were playing when he was at college? She seems to like playing it.
  • When they’ve analysed the spreadsheet, the leads don’t pan out and they hit a dead end, so Charlie phones this other computer-nerd analyst at the station to ask if they’ve ‘missed something’. Nerd complains that they haven’t and he’s too tired and he doesn’t want to look anymore. Charlie threatens to pound him senseless, but in a Zen way, and the nerd gets all sweaty and afraid. Three seconds later he says, hang on, there’s this entire column of data here that now looks fishy to me. Twenty seconds later Charlie’s solved the case (Bad Kid was having an affair with his kidnapper’s mom who was just jealous for his mother’s love — it’s all there in the column).

In summary, that’s a whole lot of stupid to pack into one episode, especially when the writers could have fact-checked with literally anyone and improved it.

But, er, thanks for lending it to us, bro, we really enjoyed it. >ahem<

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2 Responses to “The Death of ‘Life’”

  1. Phillip November 18, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    You lack imagination… 🙂

    • Jordan Pickering November 18, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

      I bought you a Christmas present, but unfortunately I’ve hidden it behind level 99 of Bubble Bobble. You’re cool with that, right?

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