Life On Mars USA Review: Lifeless In New York

October 8, 2009 by  
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LIFE ON MARS: Friday, 9th October, FX, 10pm ALERT ME

After its pilot episode, the US version of Life On Mars was so bad that bosses decided to move the programme to other side of the country and sack most of the cast.

This was a clear improvement, but although British fans will recognise particular scenes snatched from the BBC original, in reality the American remake is a poor translation.

We could forgive plenty of its transgressions, but under-writing the show-defining Lt. Gene Hunt played memorably by Philip Glenister, shows a serious lack of judgement.

These people probably thought that Luke Skywalker was the real hero of Star Wars as well…

It seemed obvious to British fans that Hunt was the most important character in the original and ultimately the US remake was also bound to stand or fall around him.

Such a lack of foresight might explain why this series set in seventies New York, will be the first and only one – the show was cancelled after the season finale.

As in the original, Sam Tyler is a police detective who is transported back in time after being hit by a car, and ends up in a New York Police Department which beats up suspects and asks questions later.

However American TV bosses have removed the ‘unsatisfactory’ ambiguity of Sam Tyler’s existence in the past reality. Instead of leaving audiences questioning whether he is in a coma, dead or a bona-fide time traveller, it is hinted very early on that he may have been sent back for a certain purpose.

Subsequently, UK audiences may feel that the programme has lost many of the ingredients which defined it, and Jason O’Mara adds nothing to a lead character made so likeable by John Simm.

Apart from a two-hour meeting with writer-producer David E Kelley, it seems that the British creators had little if any influence over this remake.

“At the time we thought he took what we said on board,? explained Matthew Graham the shows co-creator. “But I don’t think he did in the end.?

Sean Marland