Gene: “I think you’re talking to the wrong person.”
Sam: “An overweight, old, cigarette-stained, almost-alcoholic homophobe with a sense of superiority and an unhealthy fixation on male bonding.”
Gene: “You’re making that sound bad.”
This show is a real gem. When I first rented it, I thought it would be a police procedural with a sci-fi twist. It’s true. But there’s a lot more to it than that.
John Simm does a great job as Sam Tyler, a detective chief inspector who is unhappy in 2006, gets hit by a car, and wakes up in 1973. Sam Tyler is still Sam Tyler, and he still works at the same police station. But a lot has changed. What’s wrong with Sam? Is he crazy, in a coma, or really living in the past? The most interesting thing about Life on Mars is how Sam’s past life in the future seems to be linked to his present life in the past. Did God throw him back to 1973 as a sort of homage to Quantum Leap so that Sam could fix what was wrong in 2006, really, really early?
Sam Tyler is a professional cop who follows the rules and does things the right way. His new boss, Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister), is a sloppy cop who does things by the seat of his pants and goes with his gut. To get the job done, he flirts with corruption. Philip Glenister gives a great performance with many layers, just like John Simm, but he is also very funny. I think I fell in love with Gene Hunt in the first episode when he told three kids on the street that if they didn’t watch his car and make sure nothing happened to it while he was gone, he would go to their house and stamp on all of their toys. At the center of the show is Sam’s ongoing fight with Gene as they try to work together.
Sam tells a police officer named Annie (Liz White) that he has no idea what has happened to him. Because Annie is a woman in the 1970s, she is, as expected, treated like a dumbass. Sam’s relationship with Annie is good because he treats her as an equal, and she starts to treat him the same way.
So there’s mystery, drama, comedy, a fantasy that’s interesting, and even a bit of romance. We have music from the 1970s that is really cool (the title of the series is a line from a David Bowie song). And this is a very sad story. As I watched the show, I became very interested in Sam and what was going on with him. I both couldn’t wait for and dreaded the last episode of the series.
I’m sure that all of you British fans who read reviews on my site have already seen Life on Mars and are thinking, “Well, duh, of course, it’s great, Billie, where have you been?” So I guess I’m mostly talking to my American readers who missed this series when it was on BBC America. This show is great if you like intelligent, well-written, well-acted fantasy with heart. It’s also not too much of a commitment, since there are only sixteen episodes.
In fact, that’s the only thing Life on Mars does wrong. I thought it was over way too soon.
Ashes to Ashes is a spinoff series that is not yet available on Netflix. I’m almost sure I don’t want to try it. I like Life on Mars as it is, and I don’t want any other stories in the same “verse” to change that. There was also an American version of Life on Mars that only lasted one season. I don’t want to do it at all. Should I try one, or should I try both? I’d like to know what you think, so please share your thoughts. (As usual. I love your comments. (Even when you tell me I’m mad.)
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Audience Review After Watching the Series
- Absolutely love Life on Mars. Without a doubt one of the best shows of the last decade. Great characters, great stories, great music, great car!
Ashes to Ashes is certainly worth a try, Billie. The first season is a little weak but it gets much better by the second with Gene in top form (“He shot my car! You shot my car you twat!” :). The third and final series is due to start soon over here. Hopefully, the ending will be as good as Mars.
Don’t bother with the American version. It’s mostly just remakes of the British episodes and Harvey Keitel is too old, too short, and too wrong for Gene Hunt. The final twist at the end is truly laughable as the producers took the title a little too literally.
- I love Life on Mars but you really have to check out Ashes to Ashes. I know a lot of people who never enjoyed it because John Simm isn’t in it, but personally, I thought it was fantastic.
The way they wrap up the entire first season (haven’t caught up on the second yet) is incredible and way beyond what they accomplished in Life on Mars.
Also, Gene Hunt is even funnier if that’s even possible
Life on Mars is a police procedural with a sci-fi twist. John Simm plays Sam Tyler, a detective chief inspector in 2006, who wakes up in 1973. The most interesting thing about the show is how Sam’s past life seems to be linked to his present life in the future. Ashes to Ashes is a spinoff series that is not yet available on Netflix. I’m almost sure I don’t want to try it.
This show is great if you like intelligent, well-written fantasy with heart. It’s also not too much of a commitment, since there are only sixteen episodes. The first season is a little weak but it gets much better by the second with Gene in top form. Harvey Keitel is too old, too short, and wrong for Gene Hunt. The final twist at the end is truly laughable as the producers took the title a little too literally.