Saturday, October 11, 2008

Life on Mars

We watched the first episode of the American version of 'Life on Mars' last night. This is the TV show about cop who finds himself back in the year 1973 after being hit by a car. The original UK version of the show was on the BBC about two or three years ago; Alan and I watched it avidly before we left the UK. It was really great television, and we were interested to see how the US version would compare. I always wonder why they bother making US versions of perfectly good UK shows so this is a good chance to find out.

For anyone who hasn't seen the show, Here be spoilers!!

Well, the storyline of the episode was almost identical. Even some of the dialogue seemed very familiar. The locations, of course, are different - the UK one is set in Manchester and the US one is in New York. However, Sam wakes up in an industrial wasteland just as he did in the UK.

All the characters have exactly the same names and very similar looks, with the exception of Annie whose surname has changed. It was hard to watch without almost seeing the UK actors on the screen, they were that close. The cops all had the same styles and haircuts, albeit American-ised. As for the actors, the guy playing Sam (Jason O'Mara) doesn't have anything like the same charisma as John Simm. However Gene Hunt is played by Harvey Keitel which is cool.

A lot of the differences stemmed from cultural variations. Different people and places were referenced throughout the episode. Some different language constraints had to be worked around, for example when Sam first walks into his police station, in the UK he asks, "Where's my PC?" to which someone replies, "PC who?". The American Sam asks, "Where's my computer?" and get a reply about the film "2001, A Space Odyssey" instead.

The set dressing looked as elaborate as in the UK series. I was very young in the 1970s but grew up with 1970s British culture, so a lot of the set dressing in the UK series looks familiar. Objects and consumer product packaging, cars, clothing etc is all culturally relevant. I can only assume the US series looks the same to an American child of the 70s. The scene in which Sam goes outside from the record shop into the street and takes in 1973 in all its glory is beautifully realised in both versions. Sam gets a much bigger apartment in New York than in Manchester, though!

This being the first episode, the story deals a lot with setting up the premise for the whole series. The only major plot deviation so far is that Sam actually talks with the very young Colin Raimes at the end of the episode, whereas in the UK he only observes him from a distance.

Looking at the Wikipedia entries for the US and UK series, it implies the plot is going to deviate a little more through the series. It will be interesting to see what happens.

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