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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

giving up on ‘Life on Mars’

At least on writing about it, after Thursday night’s episode, which I just caught up with.

It’s really mysterious, I must say. I’m Sam’s age. I lived in New York City in 1973, just as American Sam did, and so I’m supposedly getting a little glimpse into my own past, just like American Sam is. So why does it enthrall me not in the least? Why does the British Sam and his British past feel more real to me? I don’t think it’s just that I cannot conceive that New York City in 1973 was actually quite as infested with hippies as the American LoM would have us believe. I think it’s that there’s more emotional honesty in the British LoM than there is here.

The characters talk like real people in the British version, for one. But who the hell says things like “She puts the imp in impound” or “I don’t believe in coincidences, I believe in the curlicued whimsy of fate”? That’s stuff that belongs in, say, Pushing Daisies, a show that is impish. It feels wildly wrong in Life on Mars.

But I’m starting to suspect that American Sam isn’t from the year 2008 at all. Paper will be obsolete? What kind of 2008 office does Sam work in? Not only that anyone in our 2008 would recognize…

I may keep watching LoM, at least for a few more episodes. But I don’t know that I’ll have much more to say about it.



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  • I have been trying to keep up with you — the first episode intrigued me, but the feeling evaporated during the second episode with that piss-poor recreation of the many wonderful Simms/Glenister fist fights of the original — the Keitel/O’Mara relationship feels forced, and wrong… ingenuous I guess. And seeing how it’s the cornerstone of the entire series, they’re off to a bad start. I’ve got all the episodes saved on my DVR, but I stopped halfway through the second and haven’t really looked back.

    The show looks fucking amazing in HD though. I may just watch it with the sound off.

  • Patti H

    “I don’t think it’s just that I cannot conceive that New York City in 1973 was actually quite as infested with hippies as the American LoM would have us believe.”

    That’s one of the things that really threw me off in the first episode–all that fringe and big hair! Everything else about that year seems exaggerated as well, like they’re saying, “Wow, it’s the past! Get it?” but they’re obviously afraid that we don’t.

    I was a college student in ’73, and I’m having a hard time recognizing what the show is trying to pass off. It’s like a really cheesy movie made in the ’70s.

  • David S

    I want to like LoM USA. You’ve nailed it on some aspects though. UK Sam wasn’t really in to any mysticism.

    UK Sam’s whole outlook was in modern police methods, determining real cause and evidence… and so finding himself back in the past was a difficult conflict for him to come to terms with given his scientific detective approach mindset.

    Whereas US Sam is already flaunting a belief in the curlicued whimsy of fate? WTH?

    US Sam looks pretty physical; a big-hitter if it came down to it. So that hospital fight scene lacked the same grittiness because the US Hunt (Keitel)isn’t exactly a match for him in a fight.

    Whereas UK Hunt (Glenister) had physical presence and 70s police-hardened-experience to match the younger UK Sam.

    I’ve noticed that there are many more pauses for effect in the UK version.. just a few seconds here and there, which by itself magnifies the power of some scenes. Whereas US version races past little but important aspects too quickly and doesn’t convey the same power.

    I like US Ray though, and there was some promise in the 3rd episode.

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