Season one on DVD and Hulu. Season two debuts Monday, September 29, on NBC.

The concept of Life is darkly high-concept (a cop framed for murder and exonerated and freed after twelve years rejoins the police force, despite the fact that he won a huge financial settlement against the city), but it rarely feels as pat and over-constructed as its premise suggests. Similarly, a rough sketch of the cop (he loves fruit! he’s into Zen! he speaks in a weird, elliptical manner that drives his partner crazy!) belies the complexity of the character and the way those oh-so-quirky details begin to feel organic rather than contrived.

So what looks like an unpromising drama—yet another cop show trying way too hard to separate itself from the pack—somehow coalesces into something genuinely compelling, at times even moving. I’m not sure who to credit—creator Rand Ravich for doing far more with his hook than I would guessed or actors Damian Lewis and Sarah Shahi for making everything come alive in prickly but spirited fashion—but in its strike-abbreviated first season, Life captured my attention. It has real potential, which makes its coming banishment to the wasteland of Friday nights a real shame. (Not that I ever watch TV shows when they actually air, but still.)