Hit Or Sh**: CBS’ LIFE IN PIECES

Who the Hell has time to watch every TV pilot this fall? We’re the busiest people ever, and we’re only getting busier. We live in a world where you have to brief your friends before you sit them through a five-minute YouTube video. We here at Crossfader Magazine recognize the demands of your schedule. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to sift through this year’s hottest TV pilots for you (no need to thank us, but you’re welcome). Not only are we watching them, our intricate and complex ranking system will tell you definitively whether or not a series is worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**

life in pieces

At first glance, this looks like any other family comedy clamoring to catch the shekels tumbling from MODERN FAMILY’s overstuffed pockets. However, this little beauty comes with a twist: each episode is divided into four separate five-minute “stories” featuring a different section of the family, united by a common theme. It’s a textbook gimmick, but – in an even bigger twist – it works.

The pilot of LIFE IN PIECES starts out strong with “Story One: First Date”. An attractive couple, Colleen and Matt, return to Colleen’s apartment ready to rip each others’ clothes off, only to encounter the lady’s housemate/ex-fiancee Chad lurking in the living room. Colleen seems blissfully unaware of the strangeness of the situation (Matt is very aware) and keeps trying to put the moves on her new love while Chad strokes a dog and comments from the sidelines.

life in pieces chad

The dog looks just as plastic as the coffee cups

The couple’s journey to get their rocks off follows a few more twists and turns before ending on a decently funny gag. It’s obvious why the creators chose to lead with this story; it demonstrates right off the bat that these writers can work in this short form style, delivering a succinct, charming, and clever little narrative. And then “Story Two: Delivery” happens.

Another attractive couple has just delivered their new baby daughter. The nurse sternly warns the mother not to look at her mangled vagina for six weeks or risk traumatizing herself. Guess what she does as soon as she gets home?

life in pieces post birth eye makeup

Not her eye makeup, as that somehow remained pristine throughout

Where Story One capitalizes on charm and storytelling, LIFE IN PIECES’ Story Two resorts to pointless crass humor. It’s as if the writers went, “Story One will make them think we’ve got a soft side! Better shove a frozen rubber glove up someone’s vagina!” And so they do. (This is also the moment I realized it’s been a long time since I’ve watched cable. I liken it to the feeling of finding bukkake in your little sister’s browser history.)

LIFE IN PIECES comes back around with “Story Three: The College Tour”, where a family of five drops their eldest son off for an overnight college visit. By far the funniest of the four “pieces”, this segment balances the charm of Story One with the crassness of Story Two. Giselle Eisenberg shines in this segment as the youngest daughter Sophia: seven years old and already completely jaded. This girl has the comedic delivery of a seasoned pro and I wouldn’t dare ruin any of her jokes for you. Toss in Marie from BREAKING BAD as Marie from BREAKING BAD and wrap it up with one of the funniest gag payoffs I’ve seen on television, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

life in pieces marie

“Is this hippie giving you drugs?” “They’re minerals, Marie”

“Story Four: The Funeral” unites all the characters we’ve seen so far for the funeral of the grandpa we see at the beginning of the episode. We are all the more surprised when he steps up to the podium and thanks everyone for coming to his funeral, which is also his 70th birthday party (“Let’s just do this while I’m still here to enjoy it!”). It’s funny, it’s unexpected, it’s clever – I love it. This is also where we get the waterworks going and Grandpa hits us over the head with the theme of the episode: “Life is about these moments, these pieces of time, these slices of life that flash by but they stay in your heart forever. I’m running out of moments. How many more do I get?”

life in pieces leslie moonves

Only time and CBS CEO Leslie Moonves will tell

Overall, LIFE IN PIECES is unique, clever, and so charming you’ll want to claw your eyes out – but it isn’t perfect. It doesn’t always use its short form to the fullest. None of the other segments lived up to the structural perfection of Story One, and at only five minutes they often felt clipped. However, the writing in the pilot shows enough potential that I’m sure they’ll work it out in a season or two. For now, it looks like LIFE IN PIECES is here to stay.

Verdict: Hit

LIFE IN PIECES airs on CBS on Mondays

Kate Brogden is the Television Editor at Crossfader in addition to an aspiring screenwriter with a penchant for magical realism and romantic comedies. Her proudest achievement to date is getting a friend into Disneyland without a ticket.

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