Fox edits out shots of Baltimore in 'Past Life'

Pilot, filmed in city last year, based on book "The Reincarnationist"

February 09, 2010|By David Zurawik | david.zurawik@baltsun.com | Baltimore Sun TV critic

Remember the pilot for a Fox series about reincarnation that filmed in Baltimore last year? It was based on the book "The Reincarnationist," by MJ Rose, and it starred Kelli Giddish, of the soap opera "All My Children," as a psychologist who specializes in past life regression.

Well, it premieres at 9 tonight on Fox as a weekly drama titled "Past Life," but don't expect to be bowled over by Baltimore landmarks and imagery in the pilot.

Fox and the producers chose to film in Atlanta rather than Baltimore once the pilot was given the green light as a series.

And it is obvious that any image or scene that could only be from Baltimore has been scrubbed, blurred or edited from the pilot that will air tonight. As you watch, count how many times the camera focuses on the two stars, Giddish and Nicholas Bishop, and purposefully blurs the background.

But even though the pilot moves from Connecticut to New York to Washington, and strong establishing shots are used for the latter two, there is still some Baltimore-ia to be witnessed if you have a very quick eye.

The College of Notre Dame as seen from Charles Street gets a fairly good look. You can't miss Harbor East as police question a suspect on a boat. And watch closely as the two leading characters arrive at night in front of what is supposed to be a bookstore in Greenwich Village. You can discern the Washington Monument and just a blurry bit of Mount Vernon in the background before it is obscured. (A sign for Tide Point shows up in a publicity photo for the series but not in the pilot itself.)

Oh yeah, the series itself.

If you could buy into premises for series like "Medium" or "Ghost Whisperer," you might be all right with "Past Life." As you might have guessed from the title of the series and the book on which it is based, it helps to believe in reincarnation.

But it is not enough to just believe that we have all had past lives; you also need to believe that we have memories of those lives and that those memories can break through when our "souls" are "conflicted."

When that conflict thing gets too much to bear, who ya gonna call? (No, not Ghostbusters.) You call Dr. Kate McGinn (Giddish) at the Talmadge Institute in New York.

She works there with its founder, Dr. Malachi Talmadge (Richard Schiff), and a newly hired former NYPD detective, Price Whatley (Bishop). He's an unorthodox cop who just left the force in the wake of his wife's death, a development for which he feels much guilt.

He is also handsome and a perfect romantic foil for McGinn. By the end of the pilot, you are supposed to be thinking what a great couple they would make. (Think "Bones.")

Each week, they will help someone come to terms with a past life as they solve a crime connected to that character's history. Tonight, it's a kidnapping of two children.

Giddish is a find. If this series bombs, she will surely get another. And the Australian-born Bishop certainly fits the mold of leading men on TV today.

All in all, it's a pleasant enough series. Just don't think too hard about it, or it will deconstruct into psycho-goofiness before you get out the door of the Talmadge Institute and onto the first case.

And, again, look sharp if you want to see any semblance of Baltimore.


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