Life On Mars -- Worth a Look

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October 13th, 2008

It's a great time of year for television. Original programming abounds. The NFL is getting into gear and several of last Sundays games were extremely exciting. The MLB League Championship series are under way and as I write this the Phillies just hit a home run to go up 7-5 in game four of the NLCS at 5-5 in the eighth inning to tie the game with the Dodgers (if the Phillies win the series they will go up three games to one).

Chuck - which may be my new favorite show has been awesome. I love this show, and it is recording on the DVR as I write this. Heroes (which hasn't been awesome, but I'm trying to keep the faith) will record right after it.

I moved last Thursday and the TVs and DVRs weren't hooked up, so I missed the official season premiere of ABC's Life On Mars. I'd already seen the pre-air of the premiere and had enjoyed it very much. Like Mad Men, the show pays close attention to detail to the period it covers - 1973 - which I remember well from living through it and being old enough at the time to remember it. I turned 11 in the summer of 1973. If you like the music of the era, you'll appreciate the musical focus. The premiere episode's title "Out Here in the Fields" is pulled from the lyrics of The Who's "Baba O'Reilly" and the shows' title itself is from a David Bowie song of the same name.

Between Life on Mars and Fringe, at least a couple of the networks are rolling the dice on seemingly niche shows. So far, it's working out with Fringe (which I have also enjoyed). Fringe is a niche show in terms of its overall premise. Life on Mars may be a niche show in terms of the premise of how the lead character wound up in 1973, but it seems poised to have the ability to be more or less be a police procedural that is based in 1973.

My biggest issue with the show at all is that there isn't really much basis to understand or believe why the Sam Tyler character wound up being thirty five years in the past. I never caught the BBC version of the show, so no doubt some of this is explained as the show continues, but either way it seems like the show will mostly take place in 1973, so if you can suspend disbelief around that, it shouldn't be a problem.

I never viewed the original pilot, and after that was produced the direction of the show and much of its cast was overhauled with Jason O'Mara in the lead role of Sam Tyler being pretty much the only actor kept. While I'm a Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine fan and thus have much love for Colm Meaney, he was canned from the revamped product in favor of Harvey Keitel in the role of Lt. Gene Hunt. In the reshot pilot, Keitel is great in that role, and Sopranos veteran Michael Imperioli was a treat in the role of Det. Ray Carling. The role of Annie Cartwright was also recast from the original pilot and Gretchen Mol plays the revised role of Annie "No Nuts" Norris.

I enjoyed the revised pilot and will check out another couple of episodes at least. At some point I may go back and check out the UK version as well as the original U.S. pilot to see how the show has been changed. You can watch last Thursday's official Thursday premiere below.

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