Life on Mars (TV Series 2006–2007) Poster


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anxietyresister9 January 2006
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..
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Superb. The potential to become a classic
humphreywalwyn17 January 2006
Warning: 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.
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In the best BBC traditions
wood_bee20 January 2006
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!
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Another great BBC drama
kirk_bones23 January 2006
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
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Witty, Subtle, and Compelling
gelogenicB4 October 2006
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.
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The best cop show on TV since the 70's
fayemark29 June 2006
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.
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what a trip back in time!
sudip5910 January 2006
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?
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Intriguing Entertainment!
Irishize16 March 2006
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!
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A great find from other side of the pond
Lwood Bluz1 August 2006
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 being Hex).

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.
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A novel approach to scifi crime
P_Cornelius5 September 2006
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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I want to see more of this show
magaret200022 August 2006
This concept was a great way to bring back the '70s cop show. Smack 'em around 'til you get the truth and damn the legal process. No time in the laboratory, but lots of cars. The settings, the clothes, the music, the bobbies' clothes all take me back to my childhood. I love the twist of seeing it through the eyes of a modern day cop, plus his attempts to do police without a computer and instant forensic results. Sam is obviously going to have to learn to do police work by his guts than relying on technology. I'm hooked on waiting to find out if Sam can get back. I get a huge kick out of the other characters too, particularly Gene, the antithesis of Sam. The series is alternately funny and touching.
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Fionajane31 May 2006
I rarely watch TV, but I was absolutely hooked to Life on Mars. It was gripping and real and took me back to the 1970s. I loved every episode and can't wait for the next series. It was intelligent and humorous, more than I can say for most of what is on TV today! Sam was so believable; lost and vulnerable. Fighting his corner against his boss, but every now and then, the two of them were in accord! I was convinced that the final episode would find Sam coming out of his coma. It was great to get to the last episode to find out that it was a cliff-hanger... we have to wait until the second series. The plots are good and they really do portray the 70s as it was. This is the best TV drama I have seen in years - don't miss it!
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How brilliant is 'Life on Mars'!
mariannekk2510 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Fabulous! Watched the first episode last night, full of excitement for this fresh, exciting new drama. It has everything - time travel for the geeks like me, psychological stuff like "Is he or isn't he in a coma?". And of course, it has 1970s cop-show with superb tongue-in-cheek moments like Ford Cortinas screeching to a halt, hazy smoke-fugged police stations and Sweeney-esquire "You watch this car or I'll come round and stamp on your toys" dialogue. Sheer brilliance.

My ONLY small concern is that modern-day policing was portrayed as better than in the 1970s, but that could very possibly change with more episodes. I'm hooked.
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A promising twist on the time travel concept
matt-akers9 January 2006
This looks promising: a senior police officer in 2006 Manchester is involved in a serious road accident - the way its filmed makes it quite a shock to the viewer let alone DCI Tyler! He wakes up in 1973, with all the naff fashion, furniture and TV of the era!

Some of the "haven't things changed in 33 years" dialogue is a bit forced: Walks into a pub and orders "Diet Coke", keeps mentioning his "mobile", all women are "crumpet" etc, and some of John Simms "moments of intuition" seem a bit theatrical, but this is interesting stuff none the less. What it portrays so well is how trapped you would feel in the same circumstances and the desperation and panic it would engender. This feeling is intensified by odd moments when people from the "real world" (ie 2006) seem to be trying to contact DCI Tyler.

Only 1 episode so far but I will be following this one!
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Will he ever get back to the future?
sylvesterthekat25 July 2006
This show is so much fun and so well done I can't think of a better one on TV at the moment. It will inevitably appeal most to those of us who were around in the 70s and remember this stuff and perhaps even more particularly who lived in that part of England. I was brought up in the Liverpool area and therefore much of this is intensely familiar to me, from the streets to the cars to the way people dressed to the colloquialisms used.

The writers have cleverly set up the situation so that not only the audience knows how things are different nowadays but the main character of the story also knows and thus we see all his reactions to the often ridiculous way things were done back in 1973. After the first episode you notice that he doesn't do much to try and convince anyone that he's from 'the future' but instead gets on with his new life which when you think about it is only sensible since otherwise he could end up in a mental institution! We're never actually told how he has ended up in 1973 but he'll occasionally hear sounds likely to be from the present such as hospital monitors and visitors such as his mother urging him to wake up so my conclusion is that he's in a coma and is having a vivid dream.

To sum up, those of you who were around and aware of how things were in the 70s will absolutely love this show, most especially if you're English. But it is so well written that I'm sure it must appeal to anyone with an appreciation for good drama with a bit of comedy thrown in.
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Life on Mars
spammagnett26 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Absolutely excellent. 10 out of 10.

What I found most intriguing was the clash of cultures, wonderfully embodied by Tylers boss. This guy wants to plant evidence, beat up suspects and generally cut corners in a way that is simply untenable in 2006. Much interesting philosophical conundrums ensue.

What I especially liked (so far) was Tylers insistence on NOT cutting corners.

In a sense Tyler embodies those of us today that believe in due process, truth and actual justice, trapped in a George Bush run, security obsessed dystopia and wondering how we wound up here and how we can get back.

Great work BBC:-)
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orbit9916 October 2007
What can I say about this show but brilliant. It's very difficult to pull of a theme of a police officer who has an accident and ends up in the 1970's without being cheesy, but this show sure did. The music ,the colorful characters, the script is all top notch. This show is surreal yet grounded. Then there is the clash of the 70's style policing and the sophisticated and meticulous style of the 21st century. The show is often funny and although I live in the States the retro feel hits close to home. To bad BBC America butchers this show with commercials, get the DVD for this one, loosing 10-15 minutes per show watching it on their network is a waste.
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Superior BBC drama
chrichtonsworld28 March 2007
This show is one of the best BBC dramas ever produced! It is a crime drama with a twist. The twist is the supposedly time travel Sam Tyler has experienced. He has had an accident and went into a coma in present day. When he wakes up he finds himself in the seventies. Adjusting to this predicament he still tries to solve crimes (as a cop only lower in rank) the best he can using his knowledge of 2006. At first sight it may seem a sort of remake of seventies cop shows. But after having seen the first season and six episodes of the second season I can tell that it is more than that. Is he imagining all this or is he really experiencing this in order to change the future? He does encounter people he knows from the future,he even meets his parents. He sometimes hears voices,presumably doctors and relatives. Also there is a mysterious man (somebody from another police station) calling him. He seems to be on assignment but doesn't know anything about this. The question is will all these mysteries be solved? When you think you know what is going on something else happens. In that aspect the show is more a thriller. There is no shortage of humour. Gene Hunt is a great character and will make you laugh. He is the exact opposite of Sam Tyler. It is fun to see them arguing about almost anything. But still they gain each others respect. In the second season you will learn that Gene Hunt has his heart in the good place. The combination of suspense,drama and humour make every episode an enjoyable viewing experience. This a superior crime drama that should not be missed! Go watch it. (April 11,2007:) Just seen the last episode. Wonderful satisfying ending.It will take your breath away!
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Very promising start
JHollis9 January 2006
There are some shows which sound dodgy on paper but prove themselves to be better than they sound. Life on Mars is not one of those shows. It starts with such a fantastic concept - 21st Century Police Officer goes back to the 70s - that everyone involved must have known they had a chance of making something truly great. While the first episode was not perfect - in particular the opening 10 minutes was overly crammed with exposition masquerading as dialogue - it is already fulfilling much of its initial promise. As well as the superb production values that one would expect from the producers of Spooks and Hustle, this show has set up two intriguing ongoing mysteries both of which ought to be well worth watching unspool over the next seven weeks.
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Life On Mars
helowolf9 September 2006
I found BBC America by mistake, while browsing the channels. I'm glad I did! This show is outstanding! Detective (DCI) Sam Tyler is put into a coma by a hit & run driver, and then wakes up 33 years earlier, as a Detective in 1973.

The plots are solid, and the twist on reality (is he dreaming, insane, or really back in 1973) is a good one. The combination of comedy and drama work with this show.

Supposedly ABC or NBC is picking up an American version of this show & I wish it well. But I recommend EVERYONE watching it.

So far the only DVDs available, are Region 2, but hopefully they'll be releasing Region 1 DVDs, once the season is over.
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Very Promising
mostly_harmless10 January 2006
I've been looking forward to this for a few weeks now, as the trailers have set it up as the sort of slightly unusual, imaginative programming I tend to like, but which few contemporary broadcasters have the guts to produce these days, let alone put out during prime-time (albeit on a Monday!).

Most UK listings describe it as a 'Police Drama', which is I suppose the easiest box to put it in, for marketing purposes if nothing else. 'Unusual Police-cum-time travel-cum dark comedy-cum drama' might be a more accurate (if less saleable or say-able) description.

The premise of the show is intriguing; Sam Tyler, a DCI with the Manchester Police in 2006, is investigating a murderer who seems to be eluding him (and may have kidnapped his girlfriend) when he is hit by a car and wakes up in 1973. He has the same name, face, and indeed job, but is now only a DC. This sets up all sorts of interesting possibilities for the writers, not the least of which is an amusing nod to the way that the police, and particularly police dramas, have changed over the years.

We're presented with a number of possible explanations for what's happened; Is he mad? Is some 'other force' driving him like Qunatum Leap's Sam Becket? Or is it just his unconscious mind mulling through the 2006 case and visualising bits of evidence whilst he lies in a coma? The show plays with these ideas by showing apparent connections between the 2006 murders Sam was investigating and similar events he encounters in 1973, snippets of what might (or might not) be the voices of doctors treating him in hospital, and by highlighting the remarkable detail of the 1973 world he is either imagining, or really living in.

There's a bit of rushing around to get all this explained in the first episode granted, but I suspect that's needed to set the thing up (unlike US shows like LOST that run to 24 episodes or so, this thing will probably have to fit itself inside 6). There's also rather too many time travel 'jokes' ("I need my mobile", "Mobile what?" etc.), which grate a bit after a while, but the transposing of an iPOD with an old 8-track in Sam's car is inspired (and provides the necessary Bowie 'Life on Mars' linkage).

So all in all a promising start to an interesting show. Expect the next few episodes to be less bizarre than the first, with an eventual build up to Episode 6 that links back to Episode 1 (if I know my UK mini-series physics!). The ultimate outcome of the plot may not be that surprising (I'm sure most people have a reasonable idea of where it's all going), but I doubt that will stop it from being an entertaining ride.
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Made me go out and buy an all-region DVD player
sheenarocks12 September 2008
I first saw this on BBC America. I'm not sure if UK fans realize this but it is cut up for commercials here in the US (even though it is BBC America) and whole plot lines are cut out of each episode to fit it into 60 minutes with commercials. You might be shocked at what exactly gets left out of this show (one example is the episode with Warren and the Bent Copper thing where they go to the Warren's Nest--and on BBC America they cut out the whole scene where Sam talks to Marc Bolan from T-Rex to fit in a commercial).

Sigh... American TV. Anyway, because of crap like this, I was actually forced to buy an all-region DVD player so I could see these wonderful episodes uncut. And what an incredible show this is! That last episode: ****SPOILER ALERT***** I can't imagine it is going to end that way here in the US. All the PC anti-suicide groups will be totally up in arms here. Really, it will be interesting to see how they manage to end the US version of the show--if it gets that far. I was disappointed to hear they were going to make a whole new, American version of this great show. From the preview I saw on TV here, it looks EXACTLY like the first episode of the British version. I don't have very high hopes for the American version of LOM. I have encouraged people here (and the in-laws in Australia) to watch the British version but unfortunately it is not available here in the US in our DVD format--so, get that all-region DVD player, that's my recommendation! One of the most unique things I have seen on television ever. A definite 10/10.
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Slick, smart, believable
kwinte11 August 2006
The premise of this show might stretch the limits of credulity - a cop who wakes up in the 1970s after being hit by a car - but within a few moments the viewer is drawn in, suspending disbelief because of the fantastic performances by the actors. John Simm's gives a strong and subtle performance, his ability to convey his emotions in subtle facial expressions keeps the audience connected to ongoing challenges of his character. Simm's is also impressive given the fact that he is in every scene of the entire series, yet you never get the sense that he has lost the essence of the character. A fantastic example of the best of British drama.
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sci-fi comedy , time travel back to 1973
james watson13 June 2006
A first class 8 part series . Anyone who lived through the 1970s in the UK will find the whole series very gripping and will fetch back a flood of memory's it's been a long time since since any drama has grabbed me like Life on Mars. I was 4 in 1973. I found the acting and the story line very strong and enjoying the way Sam's slowly beginning to adapt to life in 1973. He's taking on board some of the things that at first seemed out of the code of conduct to him but at the same time managing to keep his moral ideology intact . Me and wife had 4 good nights in watching the series and hope the BBC turns out more great work likes this .
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Good premise peters out into a banal, boring cop show
Don Druid10 July 2012
This show purports to be weird, but "weird" can't make it exciting.

The good stuff: the audience is drawn in by the surreal concept as presented in the first episode, there are some nice uses of the "out of time" premise throughout to explain how police procedures and behavior have changed since the 1970s, and Philip Glenister steals the show as Gene Hunt, the foul-mouthed chief inspector who runs roughshod over Sam Tyler, the 2006 hot cop stranded in a decade of bell bottoms and bad British food.

But those quirks don't make for a great show, or even a good one, really. The first series goes downhill around the time the producers toss us a maudlin after-school-special episode about football hooliganism, featuring a blank-faced, flat-voiced child actor - far from the only misplaced youngster to torture our eyes and ears in this series.

The writing varies greatly in quality from episode to episode, and the supposed payoff in the final episode of series 1 is both predictable and nonsensical, attached to the supposed overarching plot by the flimsiest of threads. For some reason, we're given the same 'tense', underwhelming Freudian scene twice within the last minutes of Series One. It makes no narrative sense the first time - and I don't mean it's surreal or challenging; it simply makes no sense for the protagonist to behave the way he does, even according to the dream-logic of the show. The second time we're forced to sit through the same mystifying confrontation, I felt my brain down-shifting from "frustrated" to "bored", and began thinking about my lunch plans for the following day . . . not the sort of rumination that the show's creators wanted to evoke, I'd assume.

The rest of the cast does fine with what they're given, and deserves plenty of the praise they've received, but decent delivery of so-so scripts, hints of warped reality, and a little retro comedy here and there? None of this covers up how this show is somewhere beneath the lesser-known Law & Order series when it comes to the cop stuff.

And "Life on Mars" is about 80-90% low-quality cop stuff, with the bizarre elements as window dressing. There's a lot of Our Hero leaping to miraculous conclusions when he happens to overhear a word vaguely related to the case. There's a lot of sniveling rats getting slammed into walls, and a lot of shady characters suddenly spilling their guts when they're asked the same question, but slowly. And. Seriously. This time. You've seen it before, and done better, too.

"Life on Mars" tries to pass all of this off as reference to the 1970s cop dramas it both mocks and worships, but instead, it comes across as lazy and aimless imitation of better prime-time television drama from the 2000s. I stuck with it in the hopes that the first series would end on a high note that would bring me back for the second, but really, the first series finale episode is some of the worst TV I've ever seen.

This gets 5 out of 10, because if you picked a random cop drama OR a random Twin-Peaks-imitating weird-out suspense series to watch instead, there's about a 50% chance it would be better than "Life on Mars".
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