Friday, October 10, 2008

Surprisingly NOT Disappointing: The US version of LIFE ON MARS

The Brit series LIFE ON MARS was terrific. Excellent acting, plotting, conflict, era music, and dead-on awful '70's hair, sexism, and clothing.

The two males leads--Sam Tyler and Gene Hunt--had chemistry to spare during their frequent sparring and their increasing cooperative spurts. The romance was pleasant. And the ending made you wonder if it really was speculative or just a comatose dream. (I could go either way.)

When I heard there was gonna be a US version, I groaned. Why, oh, why, do we insist on redoing what was done right the first time? Look what we did to COUPLING (the American first episode--word for word near as I could tell to the Brit episode--was so bad my husband and I needed sick bags (almost). Cringe-bad. Thank God that it was swiftly cancelled.

So, with trepidation, I watched the first episode of the American LIFE ON MARS.

Not bad. Pretty good, actually.

Harvey Keitel is weird
(yet again) and less pouty-and-ready-to-pound-face than the Brit who played Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister), but not as hair-triggery and pub-drenched. I loved un-PC Brit Gene. He was wonderfully awful.

The new Sam Tyler, the comatose/time-traveler(maybe), is played by Irish actor Jason O'Mara, who's handsomer than John Simm, but not nearly as good at looking confused. I grew to really like Simm in his role, and it's possible this cutiepie will grow nicely on me, too. Okay, so I like him already. Let's see if he can be consistently good and increasingly intense like Simm.

I actually prefer the quippy secondary male cops in the US version better than the Brit one. One is the guy from THE SOPRANOS, whose name escapes me. His moustache is formidable...and ugly as sin. Gretchen Mol as Annie is, so far, okay. Bonier by far than the Brit Annie, and hugely bleached on top, so less comforting and approachable in her appearance.

And Lisa Bonet still can't act.

The music is no less cool in this version, sending me and hubby into aural flashbacks. I sang along to a couple of tunes. (Yeah, we were 13 in 1973. We remember this music!) This one was particular fun:

West side, east side
Little Willy, Willy wears the crown, he's the king around town
Dancing, glancing
Willy drives them silly with his star shooter shimmy shuffle down
way past one and feeling alright
cuz with little Willy round they can last all night
Hey down, stay down, stay down now

'Cos little Willy, Willy won't go home
But you can't push Willy round
Willy won't go, try tellin' everybody but, oh no
Little Willy, Willy won't go home

You know you had fun singing "star shooter shimmy shuffle down."(That yellow outfit in the video scares me!)

Whether yankee LIFE ON MARS will stay at its level of quality, move up to super-terrific, or slide down to so-so or worse is yet to be seen. If they intend to copy the original pretty much scene by scene, it should be at least good. If they expand and take off to new paths, it will be interesting, but no guarantee.

Bottm line: We sat through it and had a good time.

Considering we've already seen this story, that's not a bad recommendation.

If you didn't see the nifty Brit version, give the US one a try.

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