'Past Life' proves weak addition to other Fox procedural dramas

TV Review

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Take the procedural, case-solving elements of "House" and "Lie to Me," add "X-Files"-like skeptic-believer tension and mix in a generous dollop of reincarnation hokum and you'll get a pretty good sense of Fox's "Past Life," a been-there, watched-that program with a supernatural gloss.

Premiering tonight at 9 on WPGH after "American Idol" (another episode airs at 9 p.m. Thursday), "Past Life" begins with a fairly ridiculous premise, and the show's bland leads don't make it anymore watchable.

'Past Life'
  • Where: 9 tonight and Thursday, Fox
  • Starring: Kelli Giddish

Dr. Kate McGinn (Kelli Giddish) believes in reincarnation and works for Talmadge Center for Behavioral Health founder Dr. Malachi Talmadge (Richard Schiff, "The West Wing") trying to solve cold-case mysteries. She partners with skeptical former NYPD detective Price Whatley (Nicholas Bishop) to try to solve the cases that come through the door.

"When our souls are in conflict, these memories come up to the surface," McGinn says, explaining the concept of regression where a reincarnated person experiences events from his or her past life.

Many TV shows require suspension of disbelief; "Past Life" insists on that and a whole lot more.

In the pilot, befuddled teen Noah freaks out when he sees a swimming pool and seems to have memories of his past life as a girl. Through some preposterous detective work, Whatley somehow triangulates where Past-Life-Noah lived (within a line of sight from the tip of the Washington Monument, of course!).

Perhaps if "Past Life" were blessed with lead actors as talented and winning as David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were on "The X-Files," the "Past Life" premise would be easier to take. But Ms. Giddish and Mr. Bishop make very little impression. Ms. Giddish was born in Georgia, but her Southern accent is wholly inconsistent in this show. Mr. Bishop's natural-born British accent slips through his attempts to sound American on more than one occasion.

Because of the procedural elements that are so similar to other Fox shows, it's understandable why "Past Life" would appeal to the network's executives. But for viewers who have already gotten hooked on "House" and later "Lie to Me," "Past Life" can't help but feel like the most ridiculous imitator on the Fox prime-time block.

TV editor Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1112. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook. First Published February 9, 2010 5:00 AM


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