LIFE ON MARS: THE COMPLETE SERIES
MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
Jason O’Mara as SAM TYLER
Michael Imperioli as RAY CARLING
Gretchen Mol as ANNIE NORRIS
Jonathan Murphy as CHRIS SKELTON
Harvey Keitel as GENE HUNT
Studio: ABC Studios
BY KEVIN CARR
Based on the popular BBC series, “Life on Mars” comes to the U.S. in a slightly stumbling way. The show tells the story of Sam Tyler (Jason O’Mara), a detective in modern-day New York City. After being hit by a car, he finds himself mysteriously transported back to 1973 where he must learn to adjust to being a detective in the era.
Sure, it’s a great set-up, but that made the series wrought with problems, not the least of which was the ending. No worries… I’m not spoiling anything, but I will say that it is one of the worst choices of an ending I’ve seen in a long time. Not that I haven’t seen it before… and that’s the point. It’s an ending that has been done – and often very poorly – many times over the years.
The concept of the weird time-travel experience that Sam Tyler has lends itself to some interesting stories. But here’s where the series doesn’t always work properly. There are times when the focus is on Tyler trying to get home. There are other moments that focus on him interacting with himself and loved ones in his past, possibly changing the future.
“Life on Mars” doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. It’s not really a cop show because the crimes to solve are often secondary and rather lame. It’s not a retro show because the series keeps reminding itself that Sam Tyler is from the future. And it’s not a science fiction time travel show because it just isn’t written well enough for that.
There are some solid performance, mainly from O’Mara and Gretchen Mol, who plays the too-often dumped-upon police woman in the precinct. Harvey Keitel is fun in the series, but he overdoes it, just not as much as Michael Imperioli as one of the detectives. Like “That 70s Show,” “Life on Mars” doesn’t really exist in the 70s but rather as a memory of the 70s. It’s just not done as effectively.
The DVD comes with a wicked-cool animated menu that leads you to deleted scenes and audio commentaries as well as some set bloopers. Featurettes include “To Mars and Back” which looks at the creation of a setting 25 years in the past, “Sunrise to Sunset with Jason O’Mara” which shows the daily life of the star on the set and “Flashback: Lee Majors Goes to Mars” which features an interview with Majors by O’Mara about the set of a cop show in 1973 (when Majors hit it big with “The Six Million Dollar Man”).