Scott Brown
July 31, 2006 AT 02:00 PM EDT

We here in the U.S. of A. are always looking for inventive British TV series to ruin. (And occasionally to not ruin.) Well here’s a prime candidate: Life on Mars, which is not your average <a href=”http://youtube.com/watch?v=tTsigxCjPFE&search=life on mars
“>time-traveling cop-in-a-coma police procedural. 

The BBC drama thrusts Sam (John Simm, at left), a present-day police detective — and classic Labour liberal — back in time to 1973, via what may or may not be a deep-coma hallucination. (Listening to Bowie’s ”Life on Mars” on his iPod, he’s suddenly hit by a car; waking up, it’s playing on the radio) He’s probably dreaming, sure, but he’s still a cop, and he’s still got his contemporary scruples, which don’t go down well with his new chain-smoking, head-cracking ’70s cop colleagues. On an episode-by-episode basis, the show is a police procedural, pitting Sam’s progressive honor code and modern forensics savvy against the results-first, questions-later brutality of Chief Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister, at right), a British version of Gene Hackman’s Popeye Doyle. But really, the show is a commentary on our present-day retro obsessions: Why do we play at preferring the past to the present, in everything from fashion to movies to “street justice”? Where did we go wrong? Or right? Why are David Bowie and the Who so much better than anything currently on the radio?

Aside from the fact that American TV probably can’t conceive of a progressive cop (our cop dramas, if not our police procedurals, really are still living in the ’70s), I can’t see anything preventing this from jumping the pond with ease. In the leads, I see Serenity‘s Nathan Fillion as Sam, and maybe Ian McShane as DCI Hunt. Who’s with me? Anybody? I smell a petition. One that has a much better chance of succeeding than my admittedly underconceived Are You Being Served? The Next Generation pitch.

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