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Fox's 'Past Life' should stay a memory

THE SHOW "Past Life"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres tomorrow night at 9, then moves to Thursdays at 9 p.m on Fox/5.

WHAT'S NIFTY Based on a novel by M.J. Rose, "The Reincarnationist," though apparently very loosely based.

WHAT'S NIFTY II Richard Schiff stars in his first regular series role since his Toby Ziegler days on "The West Wing."

WHAT IT'S ABOUT People get these weird flashbacks unrelated to their lives because . . . they're memories from their past lives. Maybe these people were murdered (or something) and the restless prior life wants resolution - though I'm guessing wildly here. This isn't exactly explained in the pilot. Dr. Malachi Talmadge (Schiff) runs a clinic that investigates this sort of thing, called "regression," and his investigators include Dr. Kate McGinn (Kelli Giddish) and Dr. Rishi Karna (Ravi Patel). A former NYPD detective, Price Whatley (Brit actor Nicholas Bishop), has been retained to work the cases, too. On the first episode, a young boy learns he was once a girl.

MY SAY Watch "Past Life" for any length of time - 30 seconds as an arbitrary figure - and thoughts start to crowd thoughts. "Is there just one past life? Two? Or an infinite number all the way back to when the soul was a blade of grass? And why not regress to those - grass blade excepted? And, hey, what about that cutie-pie, Kate McGinn? Wonder what her past life was like?" And so on.

"Past Life" raises questions and not just of the "why am I wasting my current life watching this baloney" variety. That's good, but what's bad is just how unconvincing the whole affair is. "Past Life" is a straight-down-the-middle cop procedural - "Cold Case" with a gimmick - when quirkiness, humor and even some bogus science or crackpot theology would have given it some heft or at least a sense of fun. In other words, "Past Life" needs to be more like "Castle," or better yet, "Fringe," which it replaces until spring.

BOTTOM LINE Better name for "Past Life" is "Déjà Vu," as in we've seen it before in this life - and any others that may have preceded. A snooze.

GRADE C

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