Red Right Hand: "IT'S THE FREAKIEST SHOW..."*
*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.

 

"IT'S THE FREAKIEST SHOW..."*

I like to keep track of British TV.

Besides having brought us the obvious (Monty Python, Blackaddder, The Office), many of my favorite programmes have come from the Isles. Greg Rucka turned me on to The Sandbaggers and it kicks some mighty cold war ass. House of Cards, Spooks (known here as MI-5) and State of Play are all digable.

And one of the better shows I saw in 2005 was the latest series of Doctor Who.

It is in that spirit that I tried out Life on Mars. It comes from Tony Jordan, the creator of Hu$tle (which just started airing on AMC) and Matthew Graham (the aforementioned Spooks and Who).


Life on Mars features John Simm as Sam Tyler, a Detective Chief Inspector handling a homicide case in 2006. He runs into some snags and a car runs into him. When he comes to, it's 1973. Sounds like a comedy, but it's mostly straight up drama. For the most part, not bad drama. It didn't stand out a whole to me. The crime part felt somewhat pedestrian, except on the odd occasion that Sam brings some 2006 style criminology to 1973...and one excellent scene where we find that his 1973 colleagues have a much better way of getting info out of little old ladies. I did, however dig the means by which we are led to question the level of reality that Tyler is experiencing 33 years in the past. Aside from just encountering clues to his 2006 crime, voices from the present, in the hospital, break through into his reality. Frequently in the form of Nick, the boyfriend of the women's division constable he befriends.

That Annie (Liz White) is an interesting character. Maybe just a little too cute, though. It's through her that we are reminded that in 1973, a female cop was a peculiar thing and was generally deskbound. We also see how sexual harassment just wasn't a concern then. What I like most is that, while she is the character who must necessarily believe him in order to facilitate the plot, she's constantly doing it with a grain of salt and may just be humoring him.

The whole time I was watching this, I couldn't help but imagine an Americanized version, with a little more of the funny. The thing is, in Life on Mars, modern politically correct policing is contrasted with a rougher, less by-the-rules style in 1973. Some of our better modern cop shows are good because they aren't so clean. The Shield comes to mind. Still, imagine Vic Mackey, with all his 2006 knowledge thrown back to the seventies and teamed up with a disco dude, driving around in a Gran Turino and beating the snot out of Huggy Bear.

I'll definitely give it another spin and see where it takes me.


*"Life on Mars" is the David Bowie tune on Sam's iPod just before he's hit and in his 8-track when he wakes up in '73.
©2017 Michael Patrick Sullivan