I confess to feeling grim–grim–as the premiere for ABC’s Life on Mars approaches this week. The new version rips off the basic premise of the BBC’s original–modern police detective is hit by car; wakes up in the 1970s unsure if he’s trapped in his own injured brain or in the genuine past. In addition to main character Sam Tyler’s dizzying predicament, this set-up allowed for an examination of a world without political correctness or ethics committees. The BBC version was so perfectly cast, so perfectly realized, and so perfectly short (shuffling off the screen before it could wear out its welcome) that it’s hard to imagine ABC won’t screw it up.
Someone at BBC America either feels the same way or is feeling cheeky, because the expat channel is showing a mini-marathon of their version on Sunday, October 5, in anticipation of ABC’s attempt. Episodes selected from both short seasons include Sam (John Simm, terrific as a man caught between longing for home and coming to consider the 70s his home) finding himself in 1973; Sam finding out supervisor Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister, who steals the entire show as a corrupt cop who might be persuaded to go clean–if you can convince him it’s his idea) and the rest of the precinct are on the take; Sam facing the real reason his father left the family; Gene accused of murder after a bender; and Sam and Gene as swingers. Yeah, baby. Catch it in its original mindbending, eerie, and often moving glory before it gets screwed up later this week. Starting at 1pm Eastern on BBC America.