Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Reincarnation... you're doing it wrong

Past Life stars Kelli Giddish as Dr. Kate McGinn, an expert in past life regression, who teams up with former police detective Price Whatley (Nicholas Bishop) to solve crime. As soon as I heard that, my eyes started rolling around in my head. Memories "recovered" under hypnosis have proven specious time and time again. From my POV (admittedly biased by being Hindu), past life regression is nothing more than a ruse designed to prey on the emotionally vulnerable. But then I figured I shouldn't dismiss the show out of hand, and decided to give it a shot.

... in the face.

From the start, an essential weakness in the plot becomes apparent. "Regressions," in which Dr. McGinn's client has flashbacks to their former life, would never be accepted as evidence in a court of law or the basis of a criminal investigation. And it wouldn't be enough that they find, for example, a bloody knife with the suspect's fingerprints on it. Because they can't prove chain of custody, and the lawyers out there can correct me if I'm wrong, anything like that would be inadmissible. So "regressions" have to uncover something that, in and of itself, proves the killer's guilt/the victim's innocence. In the episode I watched, a girl's memories lead them to the video testimony of an eyewitness, recorded hours before he met an untimely end. That's great an all, but how many different ways can you find incontrovertible evidence like that?

Furthermore, Dr. McGinn comes across to me as what fangirls would call a "Mary Sue." This is a character so perfect that even her flaws are flawless. She's beautiful enough to seduce information out of a man half her age, she's feisty enough to kick in doors, and she's caring enough to cry when her patient's crying. She does wildly inappropriate things, like yelling at her patients and taking steam baths with them, but no one bats an eyelash. Basically, it seems like she can do no wrong - and if the hero's always right the story gets to be hella boring. It's mentioned in passing that, instead of being in a relationship, she lives with her mother. Really? That's the best you can come up with?

If we were talking about a show where a plucky con-woman used her skills in observation to help the police solve crime (a la Psych or The Mentalist), I might have been able to stomach it. As it is, too many things in this show ring false to me. The presence of the beloved Richard Schiff from The West Wing and my homeboy Ravi Patel (apparently he was on Scrubs?) notwithstanding, I think I'll give Past Life a pass.


Maggie Cats said...

Oh, Richard Schiff, why? Why can't you be in another awesome show? Sigh. I hate to see him reduced to this. But great review, and I think I too will be passing.

Monkey Sri said...

Thanks for the comment, MC! Richard Schiff is awesome, even in this show, but maybe that's just in contrast to the acting of the two leads. In the words of one TWOP commentator, "bland, bland, bland."