Sunday, October 5, 2008

Life On Mars

"My name is Sam Tyler. I had an accident and I woke up in 1973. Am I mad, in a coma or back in time?"

This week will see the Americanization of Annie (and Sam and Gene and Ray and Chris). ABC's remake of the highly successful and critically acclaimed BBC show "
Life On Mars" premieres on October 9. (I also notice that the two websites' color schemes are amazingly similar.)

For me, possibly the biggest question is how they'll sustain the premise. One of the reasons that the BBC series worked so well was the promise of a resolution of the mad/coma/back in time question. With an open-ended, long-running series, that question can't be answered. Or, rather, if they answer it, it will require a very basic shift in the underlying premise of the show.

The BBC series extended past the resolution of this question by starting a new series. In "Ashes To Ashes," another modern-day detective (a woman this time) is shot in the head and wakes up in 1981, only to find that Gene Hunt, Ray Carling and Chris Skelton have been transferred from Manchester to London.

Another big question is whether they'll re-shoot the original scripts verbatim with different actors, or whether they'll keep the premise and write new scripts. I would hope the latter. The former method rarely works out well ("Coupling" didn't last a month on NBC). My understanding is that they shot a pilot and then re-cast every role except Sam Tyler. On the one hand, that sounds expensive and frustrating. On the other hand, it means they're trying really hard to make it work well.

For now, all I can say is that the original series was fascinating and very easy to get caught up in. The writers did it right -- they included elements of "culture clash" between the two time periods, but they didn't focus on those details. For example, in the first episode, when Sam mentioned mobile phones, and no one understands what he talks about, instead of going on and on about it, he realizes that they don't know what he's talking about, and he lets it drop and moves on. So I'll check out the US remake and see whether they've ruined it or done it justice.

In anticipation of the ABC remake, BBC America is running a "Life On Mars" marathon (Series One, episodes 1, 4 and 8, and Series Two episodes 1, 4, 7 and 8) today from 1 p.m. (EDT) until 8 p.m. (EDT).


Anonymous said...

I heard about the BBC version and was intrigued, but never saw it. Track record for American remakes not promising :(


BGreen said...

I stumbled upon the BBC version on BBC America shen they first ran it. It's not high art (the real ultimate premise was that the creators wanted to do a 1970s style cop show a la "The Sweeney" or "Starsky and Hutch"), but it's really well written for a cop show.

I've seen both original series and the first series of "Ashes To Ashes." The new series started out slow but got better as it went on. The ending did a decent job of justifying almost everything that happened up to that point. There will be a second series of "Ashes To Ashes," probably early next year, I think.

Anonymous said...

I'm really looking forward to the ABC version of Life on Mars. The premiere preview i saw was really interesting ( plus i love harvey keitel.

Katheryne said...

had been meaning to watch the bbc version. now all the way through the original version - i miss sam - and trying to keep up with the dvr and the us version. probably the us version would fare better w/o comparison - if you dig the englishness of the original - but my english husband was pleased - and astounded - to hear harvey keitel call someone a scrot.

my own version of the bowie lyric keeps running through my head "saaaaiiiilors, dancing in the pool hall..." try as i might, i can't remember it correctly. :^)