Kick-Back Friday: #191
“Life on Mars” (2006-2007): A modern-day Manchester policeman (played by the terrific John Simm) is transported back to politically incorrect 1973 after being struck by a car. Is he mad, in a coma, or back in time? The nifty opener to the equally nifty British TV series*—which was really just an excuse to produce a 70s cop show—asks this question repeatedly, and we’re given kind of an answer in the show’s remarkably satisfactory finale (at the end of the second season).
Because of the show’s popularity and critical acclaim in the UK, it was predictably bought for an American treatment, and the results were almost as predictably disappointing. A glimpse of both shows indicates that a successful trans-Atlantic adaptation is heavily dependent on casting, which may be about 99.44% of the formula in my estimation. (The lead for the NYC version was, somewhat ironically, an Irish actor, and his charisma as an American detective was sorely lacking, also somewhat astonishingly.) There’s also something a bit disingenuous about a 70s show in the US drawing on inspiration from a Bowie song (ie, “Life on Mars“). Glam rock was and always will be the purview of England, while urban soul would be the period equivalent for Manhattan, I would think. Eh, the whole US rendition just didn’t work, in definite contradistinction to the gritty, groovy, and frequently comical British production.
* Two seasons, 8 episodes each.