My plan to review all the new shows last night (plus the return of CSI) got off to a terrible start when I overslept. Then I had to find them all online to watch and review, which put me horribly behind.
I finally found Life on Mars, and watched it and totally fell in love. Only after I saw it did I discover that--and if this isn't an FML moment, I don't know what is--I watched the wrong version!
No, I didn't watch the UK original (that the American one is based on), I watched the American one, which was re-written and recast and re-shot, for reasons that can only be described as "Screwing me over."
So, Where I thought This was the cast:
I now find it's this:
This makes reviewing difficult, but I'm a gamer.
You know, I had a nice whole section written about the fans of the UK series who have been carping for months that the US version will likely suck. Maybe they're right. I haven't seen the British version, but logic says that it's hard to strike gold twice. But so what? If you saw the original, and the new version is very similar, why would you watch it? Just enjoy what you already saw! And if you want to watch the new take, allow it to be its own thing!
I feel a little bit for those people, because I just watched TWO U.S. versions of the same show! And you know how it is. You always love the first thing you see more. So, while I am very enthusiastic about Life on Mars, and think you should strongly consider it, I am hampered because it wasn't quite as good to me as the version that will never see the light of day.
But I'll quit whining now and get to it.
Jason O'Mara is Detective Sam Tyler, a cop in New York, present day. His girlfriend (Lisa Bonet) is abducted, and in the aftermath Tyler is hit by a car. He wakes up in weird clothes with a weird car and looks around......This ain't 2008!
Turns out it's 1973, and Tyler is a cop in NY there, too, sorta. Even stranger, there is a similar case to what the man who abducted Tyler's girlfriend back in the present.
Now, to pause for a moment. I have spent an inordinate amount of time (you don't want to know how much) thinking about what it would be to show up in the past. One thing I'm sure of: no one would handle it as well as Tyler. (It's sort of how people just accept aliens or magic on TV, with just a shrug.) However, this is not a criticism limited to Life on Mars, so let's move on.
For his part, Detective Tyler can't believe what's happening is real. He thinks he's lying in a coma in 2008 in some hospital. If you're thinking this is straight out of the Thomas Covenant Chronicles, you're not wrong. (You know, if the Lord Foul were a police Lieutenant.)
Because Tyler doesn't accept things as real, he can more or less function, and this includes working on the current case, which he thinks will help save his girlfriend back in the present.
The lieutenant is Gene Hunt, played by the immortal Harvey Keitel. The first version I saw it was Colm Meany, and that dude was fierce, at one point half-strangling a hooker to get information out of her. Keitel's version is softened up a bit, to make him more likable. You can just see how the Network ordered this change. "We want the audience to like the Lieutenant! We can't have him choking hookers to get information!"
Hunt also punches his new detective a lot, most of which is kept. It actually leads to a funny line, when Tyler asks what year it is, and Hunt says, "It's 1973, or as our Chinese Brothers like to say, 'Year of the Fist!'" and then punches Tyler in the stomach.
Another main character is Detective Ray Carling, played by The Sopranos' Michael Imperioli. He did not have much to do in the pilot, but with a name like that, I bet more will come.
And it wouldn't be possible time travel/amnesia without a new love interest. This comes in the guise of Annie Norris, a "police woman" played by Gretchen Moll.
I'll admit readily: I have never been a Gretchen Moll fan. And, to make matters worse, I really liked the girl they had in the version I saw. However, that girl was a detective, and no one seemed to even think twice about it. In this version (the real one), Annie isn't a real cop, and is treated derisively and disrespectfully by the men, probably much more exaggerated (and probably much less) than actual life.
I'm a big Time Travel guy. I also like the ambiguity, although the first version put it far more up in the air. Still, you can't watch the episode without wondering exactly what is going on. Everything seems real in 1973, but then how is Tyler a cop there? And why does he keep hearing voices that sound like a hospital, and people he knows talking to him? There are several ingenious ways they represent this reality, and I won't spoil any more.
Some people aren't going to be able to handle things. But if you lived through 1973 I think you might enjoy Life on Mars, for the fashion alone. (I told my dad I saw a few outfits I think he donated.) If you like cop shows it should be cool for you, because Tyler is a total 2008 cop, and it's interesting to see his vision of how things work (it takes two weeks to get fingerprints in 1973) conflict with the past. For example: warrants don't mean so much back then.
Lastly, if you like Mysteries, I think you might go for Life on Mars, because it's cool to figure out whether Tyler is really in the past or not. I enjoy that, and hope for more.
So far so good.
[Oh, and don't even get me started on the Soundtrack!]