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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Life On Mars

My new favorite TV show is Life On Mars starring Jason O'Mara as Sam Tyler and Harvey Keitel as police lieutenant Gene Hunt. For someone who never found anything interesting on television, this new season has offered me two great shows (see my earlier review of My Own Worst Enemy) and I'm loving it!

Life On Mars is about a NYC police detective on the trail of a serial killer in 2008 who gets hit by a car and wakes up in 1973. He's still a police detective, a new transfer into the 125th precinct, he has a car, and an apartment, but nothing about this world seems familiar to him. It's as if he's been plopped down on an alien planet. :-)

The show is at its heart a police drama, but the time travel adds an interesting twist. The cops in 1973 are cowboys--they'll plant evidence and do whatever else it takes, legal or illegal, to get their man. Sam is a detective from 2008 where there are rules to be followed. But more than that, at his core, Sam believes in justice and he believes the police should embody that ideal. His fellow detectives think that he's a loon and don't understand why he battles with them about such simple things.

It's not only the police force that's different. 1973 is a whole 'nother universe. Watergate hasn't happened yet, there's Vietnam, the relationships between the various groups of people who live in NYC, and a world where racism and sexism still pervade life to an extent that they don't today.

Sam also has a woman he's in love with back in 2008 and he wants to return home. Nothing's clear, though. Is he dead? Hallucinating? In a coma? On drugs? He doesn't know and freaky things keep happening like cryptic comments from old men and little miniature robots streaming around him. He wants to know what's really going on; what's happening to him and why.

Throw in Sam's parents--he helps his mother when he sees her being roughed up by a thug who works for a loan shark and saw his father taking him to a baseball game--and there's plenty of story and questions and drama to be had.

I totally love this show, especially the juxtaposition of a 2008 man in a 1973 world. Watching this show makes me wonder if things really were this way back then. It seems so hard to believe that this was the world such a short time ago and that things have changed this dramatically in such a short time. And not just the technology either, but the attitudes and the militancy and the unrest.

Jason O'Mara is perfect in his role as time traveler. He's lost, he's confused, but he knows he still needs to function in this strange, new world and he does. He also hangs on to his ideals, and by his actions, have given his lieutenant an opportunity to be a better man, to be the young idealist who joined the police force and had that optimism tarnished by cops on the take and other things he saw, other things he did. The character interactions are wonderful.

I also like the way hints are dropped into the show that the time travel happened for a reason. We, the viewer, don't know what it is any more than Sam does, but like him, we're given enough information to keep us guessing. It's fun at the same time that it's frustrating. Like Sam, I want to know!

Anyway, give this show a try if you haven't already. It's on ABC at 10pm Eastern/9pm Central on Thursday nights.

My rating: 5 stars