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Life on Mars 

Published October 10, 2008 at 1:33 p.m.

So, I really haven't been watching the new shows this season, but last night I checked out the pilot of Life on Mars. The beginning wasn't promising — yet another NYC cop chasing a serial killer, who somehow manages to abduct the cop's girlfriend (Lisa Bonet!), even though she's also a detective and presumably trained in self-defense. Anyhow, the detective is so upset he ends up walking into the street and getting mowed down by a car, and when he wakes up he's dressed like the uncool teacher in The Breakfast Club, all bell bottoms and wide lapels. The intact towers of the WTC loom above him. No, it's not 1998 — it's 1973.

Before you folks who get BBC America point this out, yes, I know this is practically a shot for shot remake of a cult U.K. series set in Manchester (minus the WTC, obviously). Judging from this clip, the guy who starred in it is a better actor than Jason O'Mara, who plays the role in the American version. I immediately tried to Netflix the original, only to find it exists solely in Region 2 DVD format. This is exactly the kind of situation that encourages illegal downloading. (Er, not that I would resort to that, naturally!)

Anyway, as someone who remembers the funky, pre-Giuliani Manhattan they're recreating, I'll keep watching this, though the anachronism jokes are getting old. (Hero: "I need my cellphone." 1973 cop: "You need to sell what?" Hero: "I'll have a Diet Coke." 1973 bartender: "I wish!") Harvey Keitel plays the old-school police chief, for a touch of authenticity, since in 1973 he appeared in Martin Scorsese's gritty NYC drama Mean Streets. There are some creepy suggestions that the hero is actually hallucinating all this. (If you saw the original, please don't spoil it for me!) And the soundtrack, which includes the original version of the title tune, is awesome.

But the show has good reviews, so it'll probably get canceled. Damn.

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About The Author

Margot Harrison

Margot Harrison

Margot Harrison is the Associate Editor at Seven Days; she coordinates literary and film coverage. In 2005, she won the John D. Donoghue award for arts criticism from the Vermont Press Association.


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