Life by Byron Cohen/NBC Life by Byron Cohen/NBC

Guns drawn, a quartet of cops moves into position outside a warehouse in downtown L.A. It's blisteringly hot in the sun, but the scene indoors is what makes Det. Charlie Crews sweat: an armored truck still dotted with flames; two lifeless, charred bodies; and the realization that an escaped con he once put away is responsible for the damage.

Now that's how you get people's atten¬tion. Last season, Life (premiering Monday, Sept. 29 at 10 pm/ET, NBC) - revolving around Crews ( Damian Lewis), a cop who returns to the job after 12 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit - earned critical props but didn't arrest a lot of viewers. This fall, the show about second chances is getting one of its own - albeit nine months after it went off the air thanks to the writers' strike.

Regardless, cocreator Rand Ravich isn't about to squander the opportunity. "The people who've found us really appreciate the show," he says. "But we're gonna do everything we can to make sure more peo¬ple appreciate it." To that end, the premiere will essentially function as a new pilot. At the close of Season 1, Crews had tracked down the man responsible for the murders he went to jail for. But the guy "was a junior player," says the British Lewis, who speaks in an American accent while at work. The focus of Season 2 shifts to who set Crews up and why - a tangled web the eccentric detective will unravel when he's not solving cases under new boss Capt. Kevin Tidwell ( Donal Logue), burning through the multi¬millions he won in a civil suit against the city or indulging his fondness for fruit.

"He still has the happy coincidence of women falling into his lap, literally and figuratively," Lewis says of his character. "But I think he's mostly gotten that out of his system." No doubt, because this season, he'll become increasingly determined to patch things up with his ex-wife ( Jennifer Siebel). What's more, unlikely sparks will fly between Crews' recovering-addict partner, Dani Reese ( Sarah Shahi), and Tidwell. And Ted Early ( Adam Arkin), Crews' trusted adviser and former cell mate, will renew his flirtation with Olivia ( Mad Men's Christina Hendricks). So what if she's still engaged to Crews' dad? Says Arkin with a laugh, "All's fair in love and war." Especially when a show is fighting for its Life. - Shawna Malcom