Past Life is the most tragic disaster of a show I've seen since the pilot of The Forgotten (apparently that's actually turned out pretty well, but I still don't understand why). I made it through 19 minutes of the Past Life pilot before I had to give up.
It is just so BAD.
It's not even the funny kind of bad where things are so ridiculous you can laugh at them. The show is nothing short of a travesty.
For starters, this isn't even an original idea. It's based on a book. For crying out loud, Hollywood: COME UP WITH SOME NEW MATERIAL. Or if you MUST reuse and recycle, please don't reuse and recycle material this dreadful ever.
Past Life is a crime procedural centered around reincarnation/past-life regression. That's a bad place to start, period. Because unless it is done in an absolutely genius and entertaining fashion, it is a ready-made disaster. I don't know what I was expecting in terms of how the regression process was going to work. I certainly was not expecting an office full of scientists who do basically nothing and then film it. (Sidenote: the handheld camera work from "their" filming is pretty much the only genuinely good thing about the show.)
The next count against Past Life is its cast. Not only are the four main cast members total unknowns, but it is easy to understand why they are unknowns. To be fair, they are not given a whole lot to work with. The writing is excruciatingly unoriginal. There are actors who can deliver even the most dreadful dialogue with some amount of charm. These are not part of that group. The characters are about as cliched and uninteresting as they could possibly get. There is no reason to laugh at them, no reason to feel for them, no reason to care about them at all. One character seemed to have potential: the former police detective with a dead wife who "doesn't believe in any of that reincarnation crap" (paraphrase). Unfortunately, it turns out a) the character is a superstitious nutjob, and b) the actor is flatter than a tortilla.
Said-same detective also seemed like the one chance that Past Life had for some credibility as a procedural show - the one opportunity for some genuine, real-world-possible procedure-y procedure. Alas, no. Yeah, he did sorta solve the case. But in a way that made absolutely no sense (unless you understand the cognitive leap from "Oh, the kid saw a blinking light in his regression" to "Oh, it must be the Washington Monument" to "Oh, here's a fourteen-year-old article from a small-town newspaper that just happens to describe the exact scenario from the kid's regression").
So what is the problem with Past Life, really? It is complete and utter bullshit.
There's no logic, there's no style, there's no charm, there's not even any unintentional hilarity. The only thing to recommend Past Life is its reincarnation quirk, and that is terribly handled. I don't know how this show made it onto the air - it's not as though FOX has been exactly suffering the past season thanks to perennial favorite So You Think You Can Dance and the breakout phenomenon that is Glee. I guess the thing to do is just hope ratings reflect quality and this disaster leaves the airwaves ASAP.
(This review also posted on my blog at http://meltedbrain.wordpress.com.)