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Is there American Life on Mars: One Writers Rant

US Cast Life on Mars courtesy ABC

Well, the reviews are in on the new US version of Life on Mars and it doesnít look good. Life on Mars is one show that shouldíve been left well alone. For starters, the casting is a problem. While this writer admits to having a huge bias towards Philip Glennister, Iím enough of a fan of Colm Meaney to give him a chance. Unfortunately, the script does nothing for Meaney or for Gene Hunt. Gone are the one-liners that the character is known for, instead heís portrayed as just a mean guy, nothing more. Itís this kind of one note directing that needs to be removed, if the show is to have the success it attained in the UK. Yes, gritty shows are popular these days, but the Manchester Life on Mars had a healthy dose of humour too. Jason OíMara as Sam Tyler is your typical, cardboard cutout US cop, lacking any sympathy whatsoever. The whole difference between Huntís form of policing and Samís is that Sam is sensitive and empathetic. He uses his brain more than his brawn when he conducts interviews, and it works. This hardened LA cop might be more ďby the bookĒ than Gene Hunt is, but he has zero charisma. Another misfire for the producers is with the casting of Annie. Aside from a wide, seventies collar, the actress could easily have been transported from 2007 along with Sam. Then thereís the portrayal of the character: gone is the friendly Annie that we used to know. That Annie, along with being a good police officer would also happily make you a cup of tea and listen to your problems. This Annie apparently doesnít realize that sheís in 1972. She comes across pretty forcefully for being the only woman in the department. Unlike Manchesterís Annie, who still has to put up with a lot of crap for being a woman in the police force, this Annieís attitude is well, pretty much that of a woman from 2007. Whatís more, her status as love interest is dealt with in such an obvious manner, itís clear that the producers have shunned the trust and friendship the Manchester Sam and Annie shared, and replaced it with sex appeal. Most surprising of all was the blatant absence of Chris and Ray who were definitely missed, although news reports are already leaking that the production plans to put these two characters back into the show when they re-shoot in New York.

Another problem with the US version of Life on Mars, and one that the writers will really have to tackle is the point that for Manchesterís Sam Tyler, the seventies police force is like the wild west. They have weapons, and can go guns blazing, unlike the present-day police force. Unlike pretty much every US cop show, we Brits donít have shows with cops going guns blazing all the time. This is clearly a different style of policing than Samís used to. The US show doesnít have that kind of a contrast. They will have to find an angle equally as interesting to viewers now, in order to keep people watching.

The biggest problem the show suffers from though is a lack of gutsiness on the part of the producers. Though the script is relatively the same as the UK version of the pilot, instead of the racism, sexism and cigarette smoking that we saw on that show, we see none of that. Annie seems to be treated pretty well considering sheís the only female present in a highly sexist era. And while cigarettes seem to litter the place, oddly enough, we donít see anyone smoking. How can you make a show that contrasts life today with life in the seventies, if you canít even show those very differences on television? My biggest fear for the show stems from the fact that the original Life on Mars ran for only 16 episodes, less than one season of most US shows. Most shows (with the exception of Battlestar Galatica who made the conscious decision to end the show on a high, after four seasons) run for 5-6 seasons. Kudos productions knew that audiences would eventually tire of the ďis he mad, in a coma or back in timeĒ premise, and cut the show at the height of its popularity, while at the same time managing to do a spin off. I wonder if Hollywood is truly capable of doing something like that? Life on Mars is not like any other show on US television right now. If the producers have the guts to embrace that fact, and not try and force it to be like every other show on TV then maybe the US version has a chance. And if not, hopefully at least it has encouraged a whole new audience to seek out the original show. Return from Is There American Life On Mars to TV


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