Byron Cohen
Whitney Pastorek
March 09, 2008 AT 05:00 AM EDT

10-11 PM · NBC · Returns Sept. 29

NBC’s newest cop show spent its first year as a quiet underdog, so allow us to catch you up on its serialized-yet-episodic (serialsodic?) story line: LAPD officer Charlie Crews (Band of Brothers‘ Damian Lewis) was sentenced to life in prison for murders he didn’t commit. Exonerated after 12 years, he’s flush with millions from a settlement and back on the force, trying to find the real killer. The time behind bars left him with an obsessive craving for fresh fruit and a fruity obsession with Zen philosophy. ”He’s a little eccentric,” says Lewis. ”Self-help tapes…Crews is kind of amused by them. But also I think he finds them very helpful.” Not amused is his new partner, Dani Reese (The L Word‘s Sarah Shahi), a buttoned-up female detective fresh out of rehab whose father played a key role in the conspiracy that put Crews away. It’s watching these polar-opposite partners learn to trust each other that makes Life, at its core, pretty fun. ”Of all the dramas out there, this one isn’t supposed to be grim,” says Shahi. ”It’s about reinvention, and getting a second shot.” Now, to the great relief of the 7.1 million viewers who tuned in for all 11 episodes of Life‘s strike-truncated first year, the show is getting a second shot too.

In December’s finale, Crews found the man who committed the murders he was accused of; next on the agenda is to track down the men who framed him. He’ll also keep pursuing his ex-wife (Jennifer Siebel), who remarried during his time behind bars. ”He feels very betrayed by her,” says Lewis. ”It’s unfinished business. She was the love of his life.” Throughout the season, Ravich says, Crews will ”keep going deeper into what that time in prison did to him, what he lost, and what he’s gained, and who he is. As he answers these questions about the conspiracy, it should make him ask more questions.” In an effort to broaden the story and lift some of the workload off Lewis — as well as juice the show’s funny — Donal Logue (Grounded for Life) joins the cast this season as the department’s captain, Kevin Tidwell. Logue calls Tidwell ”a bit of an eight ball,” one who will score points with Shahi’s Reese: In between battling her addictions and learning of her father’s participation in putting Crews away, she’ll find herself oddly attracted to the new boss. Also getting lucky is Crews’ prison buddy and current roommate, Ted Earley (Adam Arkin), who continues to romance Olivia (Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks), the fiancée of Crews’ father.

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