TV Review: Past Life

Have you ever believed that you’re some reincarnation of your previous self? Do you have memories and flashbacks that don’t connect with who you are and what you have done in your present lifetime? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then Fox’s new paranormal-crime drama “Past Life” is the show for you. If you like good television, however, stay away.

“Past Life” could be described as a mix of “Cold Case,” “Fringe” and “Bones.”

The crime-solving part of the show is reminiscent of “Cold Case.” In the first episode, a teenage boy begins to see images of his former self being murdered. The entire episode is devoted to solving a crime that happened years ago. Different from “Cold Case,” however, these detectives base their investigation on the memories the client is seeing. In the series premiere, the team magically figures out the exact unsolved murder case that the boy is remembering—a feat that left me skeptical and confused.

Reminiscent of “Fringe,” viewers are expected to believe that clients are having “regressions,” what Dr. Kate McGinn (Kell Giddish) calls the experience of seeing memories from a previous life. But the process seems less like a spiritual experience than a mad-scientist’s brain experiment.

What truly makes—or, in the case of “Past Life,” breaks—a show is the interaction between the two main characters. In “Past Life,” the two main characters are a sassy blond psychologist from Texas and a brooding, mysterious detective from New York. The pair’s relationship is mainly defined by the fact that the detective, Price Whatley (Nicholas Bishop), does not believe in reincarnation, and Kate is determined to convince him that it’s real. At times their beliefs collide, and at others they admire one another’s skills. Though this may sound like an interesting dynamic, it has been done before, most obviously on the Fox show “Bones.”

It is obvious that Fox is attempting to mix the already-popular genres of mystery, crime and cop television. Instead of presenting a fresh take, however, the network has revealed that it prefers to simply recycle old material. The incorporation of the spiritual concept of reincarnation and the role of a psychologist in criminal investigation would be interesting if “Past Life” didn’t use the same plot development and character relationships found on other shows. By the end of the premiere, I was left disappointed and confused. I secretly wanted to watch the second episode just to see if the premiere might have been an unfortunate fluke, but in the end I decided to spend those 45 minutes doing something actually worth my time.

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