Review: Life on Mars

Scene from Life on Mars

I Remember JFK proudly presents a new feature: Boomer Reviews! The purpose is to present my own opinions on releases (TV, movies, music) that will be of interest to Boomers who like to wax nostalgic. And of course, your own opinions are strongly encouraged as well!

We’ll start off with ABC TV’s Life on Mars. It airs on Thursday nights at 9:00 Central time. Its competition is NBC’s ER, which I stopped watching after its transition from medical drama to soap opera about 2003. If LOM can survive the season, its future looks bright, with NBC’s ratings horse stumbling to a series finale this year.

On to the show itself. Its premise is that detective Sam Tyler, a modern-day cop (played by Jason O’Mara), gets hit by a car, waking up to find himself in 1973. He wanders around in a daze until he stumbles into a New York precinct police station, where, presumably, he is given a job.

Okay, all a bit unbelievable, but it’s just entertainment, right? Besides, what comes next makes it a worthwhile viewing for the nostalgic amongst us of the Boomer generation.

What comes next is a sepia-toned, smoky, polyester-clad view of 1973 New York, complete with big cars, decent music, and perps getting whacked with chairs during interrogations. Doors are kicked down without warrants, gays are called queers, and hair is grown trashily long, just like we remember.

Of course, political correctness must be injected, and Tyler is frequently seen chiding his vintage teammates for their insensibility.

If that tendency is kept in check, this show has a chance to shine brightly.

Michael Imperioli, brilliant as Christopher Moltisanti in The Sopranos, plays detective Ray Carling. He instantly steals any scene he walks in on. If you’re looking for an underhanded cop character for your next series, Imperioli should fill the bill for the foreseeable future.

The precinct chief is played by Harvey Keitel, Ready for another Sopranos reference? He was married for eleven years to Lorraine Bracco, who played psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi. Keitel is a familiar face who has been nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role in Bugsy. He has the get-er-done police chief role down pat, with trivial things like warrants, Miranda readings, or requests for lawyers not deterring him a bit from busting bad guys.

With the streets full of slimeballs running free because someone forgot to dot an i somewhere, that alone makes you long for the old days just a bit, doesn’t it?

Tyler’s mission is to figure out why he was thrust into the past and get back home.

Right there I have my differences with the title character. I would invest in Wal-Mart and Apple IPO’s, buy myself a nice $20,000 house, and enjoy what comes next.

The plotline for episode three was believable. A Vietnam vet was beaten to death, the “Unwelcoming Committee” (radicals who would spit on Vietnam returnees and call them baby burners) were blamed until savvy-but-ignored-because-she’s-a-woman Annie Morris (Gretchen Mol) lets Tyler know her suspicion that the witnesses they are talking to seem to be homosexual. Women and their gay-dar! Eventually, the crime is solved as a lover’s quarrel, with a topping of political correctness sprinkled on just enough.

If the show sticks with its immaculate period look, and the preachiness is kept to a minimum, look for a long-term hit. In the meantime, the bald guy’s DVR is set for an automatic Thursday night recording.

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