10/09/2008

Thoughts on the American "Life on Mars"

Okay. I'm trying it. I've suspended my disbelief. I'm watching the American version of "Life on Mars" because I was in front of the television anyway. The Thursday Saturday Night Live was something I had to watch.  

In case you're wondering, Life on Mars is the show about a detective from our time who gets hit by a car and finds himself waking up in 1973.  It's a fish out of water story, as well as a police procedural. The British version starred John Sim as Sam Tyler, the cop who doesn't know why he's trapped in the past. Philip Glenister is Detective Gene Hunt, who is much more violent in the original. The show existed for two series of eight episodes, and wrapped up nicely, if not a bit confusingly. It's aired on BBC America, so a lot of Americans have seen it. 

This is the second version of the American pilot. The first one didn't test well. The guy who played the transporter guy on Star Trek: The Next Generation was Gene Hunt, but when it didn't work out so well and they remade the pilot with Harvey Keitel as Gene Hunt. I'm only watching because I'm intrigued to see Harvey Keitel in a series. 

I'll say this 40 minutes in. It's not awful, but this first episode is very similar to the original. The main difference is that there are commercials in it, which breaks up the pace. Just when I get into it the story, these six or seven commercials pop up and I find myself doing something else.

I told myself I wouldn't work tonight. 

I wasn't even going to turn the computer back on.

But, you have to do something during the commercials. I can't allow myself to relax and just watch the commercials. The business of television is in trouble, as I think I will certainly be watching this show online if I decide to watch it going forward.

Will I? Well, I would like to see how this version differs from the original. I was underwhelmed by the conclusion of the British version, and my memory of the show dimmed when I heard they were doing a spin-off with a female detective who goes back in time and takes over where Sam Tyler leaves off. I watched the first episode of that, and it just seemed kind of gimmicky and cheap.

The commercials are still going. I feel for businesses who rely on television advertising, and I feel for television executives. They're not going to make nearly the money they used to. Surely, there's a need for businesses to figure out how to communicate with their potential clients. 

There are shows I will brave commercials for to make sure that I see the show as soon as I can. Lost  and Battlestar Galactica, maybe Saturday Night Live.  I sense this isn't going to be one of them. I'll likely continue to watch the first seasons on shows on DVD so when I do have free time I can devour them. I recently did that with Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I bought most of the first season on iTunes, watched the rest on hulu. And you know what? It's an interesting show and I'm really enjoying it!

It's not a good sign for Life on Mars that I've started writing during the show. I'm sure if this was an original idea, I'd likely enjoy this a lot, but I can't get over the fact that it's a remake and a shot-by-shot one at that. I'd like it to be on the air, if only because I think Michael Imperioli deserves work. 

Jason O'Mara as Sam Tyler kind of overacts. Lisa Bonet as Maya is supposed to be a recurring character, which means the show is going to deviate a lot from the original. That could be a good thing. Look at the Office, which has also become fairly successful after deviating from the original. Maybe Life on Mars can do the same. If you've not seen the British version, then give it a shot. 

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