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Lost In Translation: LIFE ON MARS

Wil takes a humorous look at the failed US adaptation of Life On Mars.

There's an argument to be made that a series similar to this should be produced for every single David Bowie song he's ever recorded. Imagine if Sam Tyler had been listening to The Laughing Gnome when he was hit by that car! Just think where he would've ended up then!!

Wherever it may be I am sure it would've been a lot better than the US re-telling of the BBC original series Life On Mars.

Surely the original is one of the greatest British programmes of the noughties? Brilliant idea, brilliant writing, brilliant cast, brilliantly executed. It really was quite brilliant. So international broadcasters were obviously going to sit up and take notice. However not content with just buying the episodes for broadcast, ABC decided to remake the series with a bunch of young Americans (see what I did there?).

To be fair the US version of Life On Mars started out pretty strongly, that was largely because the early episodes were almost exact copies of the early UK ones. The cast was good too. Jason O'Mara is no John Simm but is a decent enough leading man, and if you were going to pick anyone to step into Philip Glenister's shoes, then you couldn't chose better than Harvey Keitel could you?

Although saying that, the discovery that in the original US pilot Gene Hunt was played by Colm Meaney, none other that Chief O'Brien himself, has me longing to see that scrapped story...

Unfortunately ABC treated the US version of Life On Mars like a ginger step-son, showing it very little love and hardly any (advertising) exposure. Ratings were not great and trouble set in quite quickly when it was pulled from the schedule for two months right in the middle of a key 2-part story. When it returned ABC broadcast a totally different episode than the one expected, they then continued to burn-off the show out of order. If it made no sense to the viewers then you can't blame the audience for not sticking with it, can you? So clearly it wasn't long before ABC announced that Life On Mars would not be back for a second season.

I'm thinking this must have been the time when the shows producers thought, "Well if no-ones watching, and it makes no sense already, then feck it, let's just make some crazy shite up shall we?" (Fact - this is exactly how Hollywood executives talk... Maybe.).

And make some crazy shite up they did. Taking the title of the show literally, they drastically implemented some 'ch-ch-changes' to Sam Tyler's storyline.

It turned out that the US Sam Tyler and everyone in his 1973 fantasy were all just part of a computer fantasy which Sam was experiencing whilst 'asleep' in 2035 on the first manned mission to...(guess where?)... Mars.

For reals.

This sudden shift in storyline made the 'current day' introduced in the opening episode (you know the part where Sam get's hit by a car), also part of a dream. That kinda doesn't work.

But as the crew woke up to their space oddity and realised that "this is not America" (sorry about that one, it felt forced I know, but if you knew what was coming up then you'd forgive me) we were presented with probably the most ludicrous televisual plot twist that anyone has ever had in the history of ludicrous televisual plot twists - Harvey Kietel's Gene Hunt was actually Sam's Dad.

For reals, reals.

But get this, Papa Tyler goes by the name of... 'Major Tom' Tyler! Can you imagine how proud of themselves the writers must have been for getting that David Bowie reference in there?

I'm sorry, but it was pathetic!

Oh yes, I forgot to mention that thanks to this ridiculous plot twist there was now a massive icky moment earlier on in the series. You see before the writers went all rebel, rebel on us (I can't stop now), they'd written an episode where Sam slept with Gene Hunt's daughter. So...er...got a thing for your sister then Sam?!?!

Won't somebody think of the children!

Let's leave the finale word on the US remake of Life On Mars to original series creator Matthew Graham,
"Have you seen it? It beggars belief, doesn't it?"
Yes, yes it did!

Geek. Lover. Fighter. Dwarf. Follow Wil on Twitter.

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