“If it weren’t my job I might not have stuck with [Life Sentence] long enough to figure out the tone of the show,” one TV critic told Bill Lawrence during the TCA Q&A for the CW series. The series is about a young woman [Lucy Hale] who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and decides to “live like she was dying,” and then finds out she’s cured and has to live with the choices she made and discover what’s really been going on with the rest of the family.
“I’m going to write that up as a positive review,” Lawrence joked.
The critic took issue with that levity, explaining “the problem” with the show “is that cancer looked really pretty” at the top of the first episode, what with Hale having “looked ridiculously good” while supposedly dying. The critic compared it to Ali McGraw in Love Story, except, of course, McGraw’s character Jenny does hand in her dinner pail in that ’70s film.
Lawrence was having none of it, having been down this road before on his long-running hospital dramedy Scrubs.
Lawrence said he lost count of the critics who said Scrubs was “not going to work” because of the volume of the silliness in a series about people living and dying at Sacred Heart Hospital.
After the first few minutes of the opening Life Sentence episode, in which Hale’s character finds out she is not dying of cancer, Life Sentence is an optimistic family show, Lawrence insisted, picking up where all those romantic “cancer movies” like Love Story leave off with things tied in a neat little bow.
“One of the things these guys sold me on,” Lawrence said of creators Richard Keith and Erin Cardillo, is the fact that families of cancer patients are told to create as positive an environment as possible for the patient. In that way, they are told, the patient will not feel like a burden and can live in an “optimistic world,” he said, citing their research. Life Sentence is about the family transitioning to reality after learning Hale’s character will survive.
Life Sentence, from WBTV and Lawrence’s studio-based Doozer Prods, also stars Elliot Knight, Dylan Walsh, Gillian Vigman, Jayson Blair, Brooke Lyons and Carlos PenaVega. Cardillo and Keith executive produce with Lawrence and Jeff Ingold along with Oliver Goldstick and Lee Toland Krieger.