Anyway, I wrote about the TV series Life on Mars at Mayor Sam last fall, because I loved the concept so, so much. (Those ABC bastards don’t even have shows up to link to anymore!!) Briefly, a cop gets hit by a car in the present, and wakes up still a cop, still in NYC, in 1973, and spends the rest of the series trying to figure out if he’s in a coma, dead, time travel, etc. The episodes were filmed with a yellow glow, and include some great groovy scenes of hippies, old cars and attitudes, and even the Twin Towers (in the first episode only. Why, did the CGI cost too much?) Also lots of 70’s tunes, of course. I’m not into music at all, but a lot of people liked that the most.
The actor is a quite hunky, 40ish Irish guy who never let his accent slip once. Harvey Keitel – well, I’ve liked him better in other things. I really liked Gretchen Moll, and grew to like her more. The Sopranos guy with a stache overacted.
But I want to be clear that Life on Mars didn’t die a peaceful death. ABC killed it, with ugly knife wounds all over the place. They were GIVEN the premise, and a lot of the episode plots, from the very successful UK series of the same name (which has a spinoff). ABC HAD the setup, the familiar audience, the interest, the timing, the characters, even some of the dialogue from the England show. The cast changed, of course, and the one big change, and quite an improvement, was just moving the show from England to NYC. So why couldn’t they keep it alive???
- The title. I loved the show from the first episode, but how stupid are the marketing geniuses at ABC? Once the first bounce of PR is out, all anyone sees on the tv guide or schedule or grid is THE NAME. What the hell does “Life on Mars” mean? Is it a space show, scifi? If so, why were so many episodes the keystone cops in 70’s uniforms? And the name is too close to Lost. I kept calling it “Lost on Mars” for weeks. Just a stupid, stupid mistake on their part.
- The relationships. Where is the male bonding? It just wasn’t there, and this is in a show with only 1 and 1/2 women characters.
- The fear. Or, no fear. What makes Lost so great? Monsters. Killers. Bears. Abandonment. Survival. Alone. The unpredictability. Here Sam is stuck in a world where he is 4 years old (and he SEES himself as a child!), and has no friends, no girlfriend, no family, no one to confide in, no idea what is happening to him, or even if he’s dead. He should have been terrified!! And angry. Instead, he’s happy go lucky most of the time. There should have been mystery, and a PROBLEM to solve.
- The writers had no sense of humor. None. I know they were all male. Slapstick was their schtick.
- The dialogue. Oh, Gah, I was so embarrassed after I had written about the show on Mayor Sam, and told everyone to watch, that it was that preachy episode about homophobia. Every cliche in the book, but the worst part to me was the sentences the actors had to say. Not only were they totally unoriginal, they were too long! The actors were literally taking breaths in the middle of them! Especially stache man, who apparently spoke only in similes anyway.
Still, sad to say goodbye, parting is such sweet sorrow. They did give an answer as to why Sam landed in 1973. People complained that it was unsatisfying, but really the whole show was unsatisfying. The most memorable part of the last episode was the child who played him as a kid. And I don’t even like kids! He looked like a little angel, so pretty when he danced. More of Jason O’Hara, and more of him, please.