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Life on Mars (2006)

Life On Mars will time travel from the Seventies into the Eighties (PAUL REVOIR, 5th December 2007, Daily Mail)
A sexist copper who favours an orange Audi Quattro has barged his way into BBC 1's new winter/spring schedule.

Philip Glenister stars as the politically incorrect detective Gene Hunt in the Life On Mars spin-off Ashes To Ashes.

His new sidekick, replacing John Simm, is actress Keeley Hawes. She plays a single mother in 2008 who suddenly finds herself in 1981, surrounded by well-dressed criminals and New Romantics.
The BBC starts showing Season 2 of Life on Mars on December 11th.

Meanwhile, it's entirely fitting that the follow up series features the Gene Genie, because, as it turned out, the show was really about him rather than Sam Tyler in the first place. It's best not to go into too much detail and spoil the series for those who haven't seen it, but the manner in which they concluded its run was immensely satisfying.

The conceit of the original was that a contemporary detective, the uber-PC and utterly metrosexual Sam (John Simm), gets hit by a car and awakens in 1973. There he has to solve crimes and try to figure out whether he's crazy, comatose (which the scripts tilt towards heavily), or time-traveling, while working with a squad of neanderthal coppers. As his foils to either side ofd the gender spectrum we're given Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt (Mr. Glenister) -- the loutish, hard-drinking, two-fisted, crack-the-case-at-any-cost boss -- and Annie Cartwright (Liz White) -- the sweet, zaftig, but determined police woman. Sam is frustrated by Gene's machismo, on the one hand, and Annie's femininity, on the other, but is also attracted by both.

While the cases and the social issues raised by them have a tendency to be wrapped in multi-culti pabulum, the show always always demonstrates an awareness of how cloying Sam's (and our) modern perspective is. Further, Gene is frequently shown to be more aware of that perspective and willing to use Sam (often unwittingly) where he finds it helpful, in order to change the culture. Likewise, Sam takes advantage of the prevailing social mores when they are useful to the investigations. And, for all the political correctness, the fundamental theme of the show could hardly be more counter-cultural--after all, it's basically an extended argument against euthanasia and for the worth of human life. Sam battles constantly to let doctors, nurses, family and friends -- whose voices he can sometimes hear as if they were at his hospital bed -- know that he is still there and still aware. There's even an episode where he meets the mother of his future girlfriend and tries to talk her out of aborting the baby. The show is a two-year long pro-life sermon.

Even with all the good things going for it though, the series could easily have been ruined had the producers dragged it out -- as has happened with shows like the X-Files, Alias, Lost, Heroes, etc. -- or had they failed to recognize the inevitable conclusion. In embracing it they turn the final episode into truly superior story-telling and give television a profundity it is not always associated with. I'd not want to ruin it for you if you've not seen it, so let's just say that it serves as a sort of rebuttal to Miguel de Cervantes.

This is a show that one of the American networks should just buy and run as is, but instead will buy the rights to, remake themselves, and butcher unforgivably in the process.


Grade: (A+)


See also:

    -SHOW SITE: Life on Mars (BBC)
    -Life on Mars (TV series) (Wikipedia)
    -INFO: Life on Mars (
    -MUSIC VIDEO: Life on mars--David Bowie (You Tube)
    -FAN SITE: The Annotated Martian
    -PROFILE:Life After Mars: As no-nonsense, Cortina-driving cop Gene Hunt, Philip Glenister became a cult hero. Now he’s trading in the camel coat for a cravat and breeches, and swapping Seventies Salford for Victorian Cheshire (Alan Franks, 11/17/07, Times of London)
    -Profile: Philip Glenister and life after Mars (Daily Telegraph, 07/12/2007)
If this year's must-have handbag was Mulberry's Mabel, the real accessory that every woman wanted was Philip Glenister.

To use a musical analogy, the actor with the apparently rough manner and lived-in face has shot to prominence from the violin desk to the exposed conductor's podium in the course of the past 12 months.

He started 2007 building an audience of seven million as the politically incorrect Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt in the second series of BBC1's time-warp cops-and-robbers drama, Life on Mars. advertisement

He finishes it as one of the corporation's most sought-after actors, urgently shooting a spin-off series, Ashes to Ashes, to be shown in early spring, meanwhile appearing on the same channel in another big hit, playing the gentle but troubled Mr Carter, the estate manager, in Mrs Gaskell's Cranford. Mr Carter could so easily have been an also-ran character who sank without notice in the hands of an actor with less sex appeal.

    -REVIEW: of Life on mars, Season 2 (Tim Goodman, December 10, 2007, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of Life on Mars (Andrew Billen, Times of London)
    -REVIEW: It's the end of Life On Mars for Sam - but at least Gene Hunt gets a new series (Nancy Banks-Smith, April 11, 2007, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: It's the end of Life on Mars (Tim Hall, 11/04/2007, Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW: No more Life on Mars: What did you make of the Life on Mars finale? (John Plunkett, April 11, 2007, The Guardian)