Friday, January 04, 2008

Life on Mars TV Series Review

Its sort of been a time traveling theme this last few weeks for me, what with reading Joe Halderman's The Accidental Time Machine and watching the just-finished BBC series Life on Mars.

Life on Mars is basically a cop show with an interesting twist. What if you were an honest cop transported 30 years back into the past, before the computer age, before modern investigative techniques were around, and had a huge bully of a boss? Because you're honest, you don't do things like, bet on horses you know will win, or buy lotto tickets that'll make you a millionaire. You just keep on solving crimes. The mechanic to how the cop got to travel back in time is done via a car accident. The show alludes at various times that perhaps the main character isn't time traveling but is merely in a coma and everything he's seeing is imagined. The writers kind of threw away the idea that the character is time traveling by the 2nd or 3rd episode though, and the viewers pretty much know that the character is in a coma.

Honestly, the premise is not particularly strong, but the show works because of the incredible writing, the incredible acting, and very very solid production values. Its akin to watching a cop & robber shows from the 70s but with way better film and way better acting. I find myself thinking a lot of times that the time travel aspects/coma are just excuses for the creators and writers to write a 70s cop show more than something they themselves take seriously. And in truth of the 16 episodes that comprises the show, 15 of them were mostly your cop and robber show in a 70s backdrop. As mentioned earlier, the writing and the delivery of the writing is what really makes the show, and in all the episodes, this is delivered in spades.

One of the other aspects of the show that was done incredibly well is the soundtrack that was picked for the show. The show is bookended with David Bowie's "Life on Mars", and has an excellent eclectic mix of songs predominantly from the 70s, of course, but is also unafraid of throwing out more recent stuff.

Of special note is the ending to the series. It really completely blew my mind not because it was unexpected, but because of the massive philosophical and moral issues involved with the decision the main character makes. I won't spoil anything, but the ending is really quite haunting when you think about what the main character has done.

For someone who has not watched TV with any regularity since 1992, this has been a most excellent TV series (it could be that all TV series is this excellent nowadays, but somehow I doubt it). All in all, a most excellent show, and for those too lazy to track down the BBC DVDs, there should be an American version showing on some major network come sometime 2008.
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