Life on Mars (U.S.): The Complete Season (2008)

A few weeks ago, I settled in to watch the extremely long pilot to Terra Nova. Naturally, I was drawn to this show because I like a good thrill and my ornithoscelidaphobic tendencies led me to believe I could be deliciously scared after watching it. I was, however, disappointed after the first episode. Now I will save my “pilot Terra Nova” rant for another time, but sitting through that two hour monster episode, all I could think about was how sub-par I found the acting. I mean, the main character (played by Jason O’Mara) seemed stiff—not at all like the man I was pretty sure played some cop who was mysteriously sent back to the 1970s to solve crimes in that show that was canceled a few years ago.


Incidentally, I only watched one episode of that 70s cop show. All I remembered about the show was that I enjoyed the 43 minutes I saw and the lead character was a helluva lot better in it than he was in the first episode of the dinosaur show. Heck, I had to rack my brain to come up with the name of the series. For those who are curious, it’s called Life on Mars. And as if to redeem O’Mara, I started in on the elusive police drama. Not surprisingly, I was hooked and watched the entire season in less than a week.


Life on Mars stars Jason O’Mara as Sam Tyler, a cop in present-day New York who, after being hit by a car, finds himself transported to 1973. Naturally, as Tyler tries to figure out what happened to him, he continues to work on the New York police force. While trying to solve murders (and the reason he is suddenly 25 years in the past), Tyler has to deal with a no-nonsense lieutenant (Harvey Keitel), at-times violent policemen, old-school investigation techniques, and just about every “ism” there is.


Often, good shows get canceled before their time. Life on Mars is one such show. Sure, I only watched one episode when it aired—but in my defense, I didn’t have the capability to DVR and hulu didn’t have the selection it does now. Nonetheless, I should have paid more attention because this show is really good.


While the overarching story in Life on Mars deals with Sam trying to figure out why he is in 1973 and how to return to 2008, each episode has a crime that needs solving. I loved watching the cops solve crimes without the use of cell phones, DNA tests, or computers. Not only does it make me appreciate the technology we have today, but it highlights the advancements in civil rights that have been made over the past few decades (and perhaps also where more progress could happen).


Also, I thought the cast was spectacular. O’Mara is great as the lead—he’s believable, relatable, and his character is always trying to do the right thing (by 2008 standards). He plays well off the harshnesss of Keitel and Michael Imperioli; and the sincerity of Gretchen Mol who stars as a police woman struggling in a male-dominated workplace.


If I was to find one flaw with the show, it is how it ended. Now without giving away any spoilers, I felt that the last few episodes seemed rushed to solve “why” Tyler was trapped in the past. I totally understand by that time, I am sure the show knew it was canceled and was trying to tie up loose ends for its audience; but in an ideal world (with more than one season), this reveal would have been drawn out a bit longer.


After watching Life on Mars, I am a bit disappointed in myself. Why didn’t I watch this show more when it came out? I mean, I enjoyed that first episode, so I should have rewarded it with my loyalty. And although I enjoyed this show a great deal, I would have loved at least one more season. Sure, I can always watch the U.K. version (and probably will), but I grew somewhat fond of O’Mara as Tyler. Hopefully he can bring some of that charisma to Terra Nova (I’m a few episodes behind in this show, so by now, maybe he has).


Thanks for reading and have a super duper Saturday!


Score: A-

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