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Titled after the David Bowie song of the same name, this is a great
time travel drama. I've just finished watching the first part, and I
think its safe to assume I'm going to be addicted for the next few
weeks. The plot revolves around a 2006 policeman who is transported
back in time to 1973 when he is run over by a car. He finds himself
wearing different clothes in a strange Manchester he has never seen
before. As well as coping with the new decade he now inhabits and the
sense of displacement he feels, he also is forced to deal with the
crimes of 33 years ago, using very primitive methods. A WPC tries to
help this fish out of water, but can he ever find his way back home
again? And what is with these strange voices in his head..? Sufficed to
say, we'll find out the answers soon enough, and I for one can't wait!
Oops sorry I forgot, Celebrity Big Brother and Soapstar Superstar are on the other channels.. and we all know which'll get the most viewers between this and them. "You'll never go broke appealing to the lowest common denominator" etc. But for those who are sick of cheap reality shows clogging up our schedules and want something with a bit more substance, you're in for a treat..
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was not going to watch Life on Mars as the adverts were so bad,
especially the ones on the radio. The ads made it look like it was a
time travelling post modern comedy, not too far removed from Austin
Powers in humour. What it didn't really tell you, or even hint at, was
the brilliant premise is not a time travelling escapade, but a
psychological examination/comedy homage set in a 1973 that is full of
cop show clichés.
Here lies the genius. As it is (possibly) set inside the mind of the unconscious present day John Simm it is not a time travel show. It is set in a 1973 that he believes existed. In the second episode Tyler says he was 4 in 1973, his memory has a nostalgic vision of the 70s, informed by the Sweeney and similar cop shows of that era. It is a tongue in cheek affectionate look back at shows past, from a modern perspective with modern insights.
Time travel makes light of the situation that John Simms character is facing. Stuck in a dream that he can't get out of, hearing doctors voices in the background and talking to psychiatrists that may or may not be real. There are moments that are high drama, the scene at the end of the second episode in the hospital is suitably dark and disturbing. This programme isn't just a jolly jaunt through the TVs archives, it also has characters that you care about.
This series harks back to the best of BBC drama, and is cast and
designed to perfection - although one or two anachronisms do creep into
the script from time to time. As if the accuracy of the Seventies
setting wasn't enough of a draw, however, there's also the 'mystery'
element, the fascinating question of whether or not the other
characters all exist in Tyler's imagination - and, if so, what they
represent. It would be easy (and I suspect too glib) to suggest that
Gene Hunt is a personification of Tyler's aggressive nature (I mean, as
names go *Gene Hunt* seems a bit of a heavy clue - maybe too heavy!)
but if that *is* the case then presumably the two of them will have to
be reconciled in order for Tyler to recover from his injuries. The most
disturbing aspect of this as a theory is that it would make the series
concept a finite one and by definition preclude a second series, and
I'm already a life member in the Gene Hunt Fan Club - I think he's one
of the most delightful new creations to appear on British television in
a long time.
With 'New Tricks', 'Jericho' and now 'Life On Mars', the traditional British cop show seems to have received a new lease of life in the last couple of years. This was long overdue, but it's a thrilling prospect that we now have a new generation of heroes to set against the Bergeracs, Taggarts, Regans, Barlows and Dixons of earlier times. And if we *are* heading for a new Golden Age of British TV I would like to go on record, here and now, nominating Gene Hunt as one of its brightest ornaments already!
The BBC have always been streets ahead of other stations when it comes
to police dramas but this is one of the best ones for a long time.
Young DI Sam Tyler is hunting a killer in 2006 when he is hit by a car
and wakes up in 1973. The interesting thing about this show is how Sams
modern police methods clash with the policing methods of the 70,s. Sams
superior ,played superbly by Philip Glennister,is the sort of copper
who arrests first and asks questions later.He cant quite get to grips
with Sam's modern thinking and this often leads to fist fights between
the two. This drama also has an interesting cast of supporting
characters.They include the Jamacan barman who puts on the accent for
the other coppers but speaks to Sam in proper language,the barman seems
to know more than he is telling. There is the young WPC that seems to
be a possible romantic connection but as of yet nothing has developed
in that area, There is also the creepy little girl who comes out of the
TV at night and tells Sam things. At certain times Sam can hear voices
from the hospital in 2006 and this adds to the mystery.Is Sam really in
a coma or are the voices in his head just his imagination. We have had
three episodes so far and this drama is so compelling and addictive
that i can't wait till the next episode to have more of my questions
answered. Classic British drama deserves 9/10
Update- Coming up to the final episode and I wonder if this series will finish on a high note oo end up being a disappointment.Will just have to wait and see
Wow- yet another gem from the BBC after the brilliant Spooks and clearly taking a page from classic American sci fiction/police dramas. Simm looks perfect as the archetypal time travelling hero( he would have a good DR WHO!) and i cant believe that the viewing population would watch trash like reality TV shows featuring under sexed models with false noses and ex basketball junkie criminals. This already has my diary fixed for Monday evenings at 9pm and it is great to relive my past when i was at school- roll on Bowie, Slade ,The Glitterband and The Sweet- the age of glamorous rock bands, The SWeeney and Cortinas. A cracker! And will the BBC continue their great dramas in the months to come as there is very little on terrestrial TV to stimulate the cortices of my brain. I cant wait for the next episode- will Sam Tyler be remembered like Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap?
How nobody thought of writing this before Matthew Graham and the other
main writers on the show, i don't know. Actor John Simm (Sam Tyler) has
been quoted as saying when he read the script he thought it was bonkers
but, oh my does it work. Terrific casting not just Simm, but all the
cast.Special mentions for Phillip Glennister as the Gene Genie!! and
Liz White as the sweet but smart wpc Annie Cartwright.
All 8 episodes are both dramatically interesting and often very funny. The use of a terrific 1970's soundtrack complements it perfectly.
The DVD boxset release of this series offers terrific insights into the making of the series through documentaries and commentary on each episode.
The show is being picked up by broadcasters all over the world, so if you haven't seen this brilliant show yet i am sure you will soon. BBC America is showing it in July 2006 i believe. All UK fans can look forward to a new series early 2007.
Like some of the reviewers here, I wasn't expecting much of this and
started watching almost by accident.
I am a '24' man(!) and I have to say after watching this, 24 (after season 3 anyway) starts to show it's weaknesses. In "Life on Mars" you really start to care about the character and what is happening - it has many surprises. Some are startling, some dawn on you as you watch.
Now I wouldn't be old enough to actually remember the 70's, but it is very atmospheric - and crucially, not in an over-the-top way.
The 'real world'(??!) storyline is handled with a light touch too. You go through it with him as clues (or more questions) pop up unpredictably!
This deserves to be a huge hit!
This British series, which made it's trek to the States, Has proved to
me to be one of the best series on BBC America this year (the other
The commercials for the series don't do the justice of what the series entails. The commercial make you think that the show is basically your run of the mill Sci-fi series working with a weak plot. I have always said that marketing is just as....if not more...important than the actual subject.
You have probably already read the synopsis from other comments presented here, so I won't bore you with the background too much. However, as I watch this series (currently have watched the first 2 episodes) I can't help but be reminded of another British export from many years ago...The Prisoner.
During each case that our hero is involved in, things come into play about where he actually is. He has no idea whether he's delusional, transported in time, or in a coma. This twist, put into the plot line, is what sets this show apart from the others in a very refreshing way.
Overall, I was quite pleased with how this series has turned out and I hope to see much more of it as well as being able to buy the DVDs if they released here in the U.S.
Stumbled on this series on BBC America and miss it terribly now that
the first season is over.
Great over-arching conflict (Is Sam imagining he's from the future? Is he living inside his coma-induced reality? Or did he really travel back in time?) intermingles well within each episodes crime to solve. Loved when promises a witness complete anonymity if the guy will agree to finger the perpetrator in a line up; handled in a way that recognized the humor without diminishing the seriousness.
Plus, even though it's promoted as Sam's story, the series would suffer greatly without the Guv (DCI Gene Hunt). In the US, Philip Glenister's character would too easily be a cardboard-flat, corrupt, irredeemable cop. Here he's written and played with many shades letting you cheer for him at times, loathe him at others, pity his neanderthal ways, respect his desire to be a "good cop" while shaking your head at his twisted definition of a "good cop." He's a smart and unpredictable foil for Sam. They're each a better man for having to deal with the other even as they resent the complication and will never fully agree on their methods. There's a grudging respect building between them.
It's Sam's and Hunt's push me-pull you relationship that makes this must-see for me.
I'm giving a vote of 9 out of 10 to Life on Mars, even though I know
BBC America must be butchering the episodes they are screening in the
US. IMDb says the runtime is 58 minutes. After you take out the
commercials and endless promos BBC America runs each hour (at least 8
or 9 minutes must be for that brain sucking waste of time, Footballers
Wives), I'm guessing we in the US are viewing about 44 minutes out of
the 58. So good is Life on Mars, however, I'm willing to put up with
it--and hope for the full version DVDs later.
What makes this show tick? Perhaps it's the ever present dreamscape quality--made possible by the slight sepia tint seemingly applied on most setups, which combine with the bright incandescent interior lighting of the institutional quality police stations, bar rooms, and housing projects to give a greenish, otherworldly haze to many scenes.
Combine this with the fun look back into a time without computers, fax machines and those damnable cell phones and you have poor Sam Tyler facing off with an English version of Dirty Harry. Combustible. Not to mention that Sam's holier than thou attitude is beginning to lose out to the realists on the beat. All of it makes for a very interesting hour--or 44 minutes.
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