There seems to be endless crime dramas on television today, and while some shows have impressed ("The Shield"), there is a point where things start to seem a little overcrowded. "Life on Mars", an ABC series (remake of a BBC series) that premiered last season, promised to offer something a little different - a new take on the 70's era cop drama. Unfortunately, audiences didn't tune in and, despite an impressive cast, the series quietly closed up at the end of the first season.
Actor Jason O'Mara stars as NYC detective Sam Tyler, who is injured in the midst of a chase, and he suddenly finds himself transported to 1973. While he remains frustrated and fascinated by this sudden change, he gradually - after a rough start - begins to figure his way through this new existence. He's still a cop, still working as a detective for the NYPD, but things are substantially different - he must make his way through the day without the modern tools he's become used to, and the attitudes of the station and the police certainly differ from what he's used to in 2008.
The detectives are soon introduced, and the station is lead by Lt. Gene Hunt (Harvey Keitel), a cop whose intensity goes to 11 within mere moments. Keitel offers a remarkable performance - powered by solid writing, the actor delivers a richly compelling, powerful effort. Mara is also marvelous as the lead, struggling to piece together his condition, which becomes more mysterious. Also good in supporting efforts are Michael Imperioli and Gretchen Mol as fellow officers.
It's really too bad that this series didn't get more attention: not only are the performances and writing quite good, but the series does an impressive job creating the '70's look and feel. There's also a dark, mysterious undercurrent and strong atmosphere that are quite effective and adds another layer to the series. How it all ends is, well ... rather surprising.
Overall, it's really unfortunate that this series didn't get more of an audience. It's certainly well-acted (by a marvelous cast) and well-written, but also intriguing and different. Hopefully the show will be more appreciated on DVD.
1. 1- 1 9 Oct 08 Out Here in the Fields
2. 1- 2 16 Oct 08 The Real Adventures of the Unreal Sam Tyler
3. 1- 3 23 Oct 08 My Maharishi is Bigger than Your Maharishi
4. 1- 4 30 Oct 08 Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadows
5. 1- 5 6 Nov 08 Things to Do in New York When You Think You're Dead
6. 1- 6 13 Nov 08 Tuesday's Dead
7. 1- 7 20 Nov 08 The Man Who Sold the World
8. 1- 8 28 Jan 09 Take a Look at the Lawmen
9. 1- 9 4 Feb 09 The Dark Side Of The Mook
10. 1-10 11 Feb 09 Let All the Children Boogie
11. 1-11 18 Feb 09 Home is Where You Hang Your Holster
12. 1-12 25 Feb 09 The Simple Secret of the Note in Us All
13. 1-13 4 Mar 09 Revenge of Broken Jaw
14. 1-14 11 Mar 09 Coffee, Tea or Annie
15. 1-15 18 Mar 09 All the Young Dudes
16. 1-16 25 Mar 09 Everyone Knows It's Windy
17. 1-17 1 Apr 09 Life is a Rock
VIDEO: "Life on Mars" is presented by Disney Home Entertainment in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The fine transfer certainly does justice to the show's bold visual style and recreation of the time period. The transfer certainly presents the show well, as the episodes appeared consistently crisp and well-defined. While a few minor instances of artifacting appear, the picture otherwise appeared clean and smooth. Colors looked warm and rich, with very pleasing saturation and no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The show's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation does offer some mild surround use for ambience during the outdoor sequences in the city and for occasional sound effects. Otherwise, this is a mostly dialogue-driven effort. Audio quality is fine, with crisp dialogue and clear, well-recorded music (the show uses some terrific classic tunes) and score.
EXTRAS: "Out Here in the Fields", "Things To Do in New York When You Think You're Dead" and "Life as a Rock" offer audio commentary from cast and crew. The set also offers deleted scenes, bloopers, "Flashback: Lee Majors Goes to Mars" featurette, "Sunrise to Sunset" featurette and "To Mars and Back" making-of featurette.
Final Thoughts: Overall, it's really unfortunate that "Life on Mars" didn't get a better reception when it aired last season. It's certainly well-acted (by a marvelous cast) and well-written, but also intriguing and different. Hopefully the show will be more appreciated on DVD. The DVD set offers very good audio/video quality, as well as a fine set of extras. Recommended.