Friday, October 17, 2008

Life on Mars

No, not a news flash... I'm talking about the TV show.

For some reason, I'm completely fascinated by this show, even though it's a pile of crap sitting on another pile of crap. The plot is simple enough, although it makes absolutely no sense. A modern day NYC police officer, Sam, gets hit by a car while tracking a serial killer. He instantly wakes up in 1973, still a cop in the same precinct... but with groovy clothes. He's still the same age, he's just transplanted 35 years into the past.

He may be lying in the hospital in 2008, and this is all a psychological apparition... but that's not entirely clear. Certain phrases and memories of his modern life keep manifesting themselves in his 1973 life. Also he has glimpses of modern things, like a remote control model of a Mars Rover which he catches out of the corner of his eye, but then disappears.

So, assuming this makes any kind of sense, it should now be a hard boiled "Quinn Martin" type cop show set in 1973. Sort of Dirty Harry meets The Streets of San Francisco in New York. Or, is it a comedy where we get to goof on how silly the fashions and trends were back in the 70s? Or is it a Sci-Fi time travel story? Well they seem to be trying to do all these things at once... and it doesn't work. The cops are stereotypes of the hard boiled 70's mentality, using brutality, planting evidence, making their own rules. There are two famous actors playing cops... the Lieutenant is played by Harvey Keitel, and one of the cops is played by Michael Imperioli of Sopranos fame ("Christafuh").

My biggest problem is w/ Keitel's character, who is such a stereotype... always drinking from a flask, always punching people in the stomach (first thing he does when he meets Sam is punches him in the gut to show who's in charge). But in this episode they have a silly fight where they sort of "bond" by beating each other up. It was just silly... even set to hokey music... so it takes away any semblance of a serious hard hitting show. The only thing that possibly makes this acceptable is that these characters AREN'T REAL... they're just some aspect of Sam's psyche... what he projects onto the 1970's. In which case, I guess un-realistic and inconsistent characterization is actually OK. Or is it? I don't know, I'm just sooo confused.

Of course Sam is dumbfounded, and is still getting used to life without cell phones, or computers, or DNA testing, or any of the modern CSI techniques available. (e.g. "We should have the finger print reports back in four or five weeks, and we'll go from there.")

So why am I bothering with this show? Well it's only the second episode so far, but from a technical point of view, they did some AMAZING work at recreating NYC in 1973. The black and white cop cars w/ the single flashing light on top, the uniforms (including the Police Woman uniform), the cars, the buses, the street lights, the store fronts, the clothes, the old radios... every single detail is spot on. I have no idea how they did it... maybe a sound stage in Canada... but they actually re-built 1973. It may be the ONLY thing this show got right... but boy they got THAT right.

And finally, the show is called "Life On Mars" which was a sweet dreamy David Bowie song, and that tune is a recurring theme in the show. And they keep featuring other songs from that bygone era which peek my attention. No, not Led Zeppelin or The Rolling Stones which you might still hear on the radio today, but The Sweet's "Little Willy Won't Go Home" and Mott the Hoople's "All The Way to Memphis". Stuff that was huge for like six weeks back in 1973 and was never to be heard again.

I'll provide some links to the tunes... also on their official web site they have a "Life on Mars Radio" which streams some tunes from the show. I haven't checked it out yet, but I'll let you know.

So I can't recomend this show, but I will probably keep watching until it gets canceled, which might be in a few weeks. Enjoy these videos anyway...

1 comment:

Matt said...

Thanks. We were going to check it out, but I think I'll pass.
I just don't like yelling at the TV anymore.