Looking For Life On Mars


Life on Mars, a gem of a TV series, made a whistle stop on BBC America and left the station before we could all hop on and enjoy the whole ride. No word about airing the second, final, season. It’s not the first time BBC America disappoints and it won’t be the last. Some shows, like this one, are trimmed for program time slots. It was shown in its entirety in the UK, so we can plausibly buy a copy of both seasons. A simple DVD transfer from Region 2 to Region 1 and we’re ready to look at Life on Mars.

The show, titled to connect with David Bowie’s Life On Mars, opens in present day (2006) Manchester, England. Chief Inspector, Sam Tyler (John Simms), is pursuing a case when he’s run down by a car. Tyler loses consciousness, briefly. When he comes to he’s ensconced in Manchester, 1973. He’s still a cop, though, lower in rank, and struggles with all things faced by anyone going back in time. Viewers of the first season have eight episodes to ride along with Sam, watch him interact with “new” colleagues, resolve cases with antiquated forensics, and attempt to solve the big mystery. Where in the world is he?

Whether Tyler is really in 2006 or 1973 is answered in the final season. The cryptic clues lead us in several directions. I know how it all turned out, since I read all of season two’s episode summaries and interviews with VIP’s connected with the series. A viewing of the missing episodes, still, would take me along for the rest of the ride. I’d want to watch the series from beginning to end, actually, and catch the material that was edited out of BBC America’s programming.

Bowie’s Life On Mars connects Tyler to both time frames. It’s playing when he’s mowed down, playing when he wakes, and is featured during other moments in the series. I’d like to be with Sam, if only to rewind with the many British pop songs played throughout the series. I love that stuff. Sam is adorable, but he’s so distracted. Actually, most of Sam’s colleagues at the precinct are very engaging, Inspector Gene Hunt (Phillip Glenister), Constable Annie Cartwright (Liz White), DC Chris Skelton (Marshall Lancaster), and DS Ray Carling (Dean Andrews).

If the American fans make enough noise, perhaps BBC America will release pristine copies of the dvd so we can see what we missed. Word has it that the story will continue. A jump to the 80s, a retitle to “Ashes to Ashes” (another Bowie tie-in), and Inspector Gene Hunt at the helm.

For those who won’t wait for the improbable, there’s the cd soundtrack. Many tunes failed to make the cut, but cheer for the ones that did. Artists include: David Bowie, Paul McCartney & Wings, Roxy Music, ELO, T. Rex, Free, Slade, Mott the Hoople, Sweet, Faces, Thin Lizzie, and Uriah Heep.

Copyright © October 10, 2007
Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Published by Abby F

Grad student @ Queens College (Library & Info Studies), non-practicing paralegal (for now), hubby & 2 cats, 60s rocker, former rock journalist/publicist/resuming writer, master of my corner of the universe.

8 thoughts on “Looking For Life On Mars

  1. I love that show! As I live in Ireland we get BBC so I could watch the whole lot when it was first shown. One of the most imaginative shows made in a long time! The soundtrack is brilliant…I was too young to remember a lot of the tracks they played (though not a lot) but I since discovered some real gems. There’s one track on the album “Snowflower” by Ananda Shankar (Ravi’s nephew) that I would highly recommend…actually I’d highly recommend other Ananda Shankar stuff as well – Jumping Jack Flash on a sitar has to be heard to be believed.
    Ashes to Ashes is slated to be shown next year…if it keeps to the Life on Mars scheduling it could even be as soon as right after Christmas!
    It’s such a shame you guys didn’t get to see the whole thing broadcast – especially when you got the whole of Rome!

  2. I heard that it’s being remade for American tv. That’s not a good sign. I’m not familiar w/Ananda, but am a fan of Ravi’s daughter, Anoushka. Her work on the George Harrison tribute was brilliant.

  3. We steal a lot of shows from the BBC. Sometimes they turn out all right (Three’s Company, depending on your definition of ‘all right’) and sometimes they’re worse than the most horrible thing you can think of (Red Dwarf). It’s even worse when you already know how good the BBC version is.

    Still, I’d be surprised if it didn’t come out on DVD here in its complete form. I haven’t seen it, but I would like to.

  4. I never saw “Man About The House” so I can’t say if it’s superior to “Three’s Company”. Most likely, it is (was). The British follow-ups “Robin’s Nest” and “George & Mildred” were successful. The American follow-up “The Ropers” tanked, no?

  5. “The Ropers” didn’t do too well. That’s more of a spin-off, though. If I remember correctly, that series was promised to the stars for some reason, but I don’t remember what (that requires a trip to IMDB).

    The proper follow-up would’ve been “Three’s a Crowd,” which followed Jack as a chef and his wife. That also tanked.

    I also heard there was an Americanized version of “Coupling” which couldn’t have possibly been any good.

  6. Since there was a (hit) Brit spinoff to Three’s Company, the less-than-ingenious execs thought, hey, let’s follow, like we always do. This is what IMDb had to say about Coupling:

    “Coupling has been shipped to America, given a generic wrapper and dropped into the laps of the unsuspecting American couch potato. With the success and intelligent writing of the British version the American version is bound to be a success… right?


  7. NBC had a couple of hits with British turned American TV shows, so they tried “Coupling”. The critics roasted it & the public hated it. Btw, I can’t leave a comment on your blog. I need to belong to your blogging service to do it.

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