Wednesday, August 09, 2006

TV Review: Life On Mars

Sorry about the lateness of the last of my Summer Shows I'm TiVo-ing Week, but I see that Sara and Jake valiantly came to the rescue to keep y'all entertained! Last entry for me on this particular theme: another friggin' English show!

#5 Life on Mars
Sci-Fi-ish Crime Dramedy
Channel: BBC America
Season: 1 currently airing

Anyhoo, Life on Mars is a weird show.

The premise is that a cop gets hit by a car and wakes up in 1973. Everyone seems to know him, he's got a job as a detective still, and absolutely nobody believes that he's from the future.

And neither do we, because along the way we get not-very-subtle indications that all this is the creation of his mind, trying to keep him alive while he's in a coma.

As the main character Sam Tyler explains in the opening voiceover: "Have I traveled back in time, am I in a coma, or have I gone mad?" It's pretty clearly either #2 or #3, possibly both.

Which means that the premise itself doesn't really leave a whole lot of mystery, since the show constantly hits us over the head with, um, "This is all in his head" signs.

It's a good thing that the show is brilliantly acted and surprisingly hilarious.

See, Sam's boss in 1973 is in, um 1973, and certain crime drama procedures like "lineups behind two-way glass", "DNA evidence", and "not planting obviously fake jewelry on suspects to arrest them for murder" haven't quite made it to the forefront of police procedure.

So, much of the humor comes from Sam and his boss being at odds with each other over the other's methods of policework. In addition, they happen to absolutely hate each other, which in one episode makes for an entertaining extended fistfight in a coma patient's hospital room.

(See? There's that subtle "HE'S REALLY IN A COMA" symbolism I was talking about.)

John Simm and Philip Glenister portray Sam and "Guv" (I call the boss character "Guv" because everyone else does. I'm not even sure he has a name, to be perfectly frank) wonderfully, and their scenes together crackle.

Factor in a cool '70s soundtrack (but with good '70s songs) that's not too overbearing, genuinely interesting setting, and yeah: it's a pretty good show.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of "retro" shows, The Prisoner, or anyone who thought to themselves, "Starsky and Hutch would have been a really good show if it had been set in England".

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: People who can't stand shows that think they're cleverer than they actually are (I'm lookin' at you, Lost.)

A/V RATING: 3/5. Quirky, entertaining, good acting. One viewing will tell you whether you're going to like this or not.


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