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TV Series Review

It doesn't take forensics research or DNA evidence to figure out what people are watching on network TV these days. Week in and week out, crime procedurals such as CSI, NCIS, The Mentalist and Criminal Minds dominate the ratings. In the face of such stiff competition, new entries in the genre need something more than just compelling storylines, beautiful actors and grisly crimes to compete. They need a hook (or a gimmick, depending on your point of view) that sets them apart.

Past Life's hook/gimmick? Reincarnation.

In many ways, Fox's crime procedural follows the established formula to the letter: a brainy beauty and a struggling, square-jawed ex-cop pair up to solve decades-old crimes. But—wait for it—Dr. Kate McGinn, a doctor at New York City's Talmadge Center for Behavioral Health, specializes in helping people process traumatic events from their past … as in past lives. When someone begins to re-live horrific events that led to a past version of themselves racing toward an untimely death, Kate's right there to help.

"The idea of reincarnation is that we've all been here before, and we've got memories of our past" she tells a troubled adolescent in the show's pilot. "Normally, those memories stay in our deep subconscious, and there's not a problem. But sometimes, when our souls are in conflict, those memories come up to the surface and can be very traumatic. We call that a regression. That's when a person goes back and experiences events in his past life."

Kate's solution: confronting those memories head-on by trying to piece together exactly what led to the tragic deaths of those who've now been reincarnated—and are suffering tormenting flashbacks in the present. That's where Kate's partner, Price Whatley, comes in. A former homicide detective and confirmed skeptic (not to mention being an alcoholic widower), Whatley brings a investigative specialist's eye to the dreamlike bits of information that surface each time one of Kate's clients suffers through a nightmare-like regression.

As a teen realizes he was drowned as a little girl, for example, Kate and Whatley puzzle out the wheres and the whys … and eventually nail the perpetrator 15 years after the crime was committed. Cold case closed. Bad guy booked. Regressive torments solved. Cue music for happily ever after … and after, according to the show.

The result is a drama that feels like one part CSI, one part X-Files and one part Minority Report. Oh, and Fringe, The Ghost Whisperer and Medium, too.

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Episode Reviews

PastLife: 2-11-2010
PastLife: 2-9-2010



Readability Age Range



Kelli Giddish as Dr. Kate McGinn; Nicholas Bishop as Price Whatley; Richard Schiff as Dr. Malachi Talmadge; Ravi Patel as Dr. Rishi Karna






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On Video

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Adam R. Holz

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