Life on Mars
Leave it to those wily Brits to solve one of TV’s most pressing mysteries: How do you keep the crime procedural fresh? Turns out, you just add a little time travel to the shopworn genre. Life on Mars, whose eight-episode debut season premiered in January in the U.K., follows modern-day Detective Chief Inspector Sam Tyler (State of Play‘s John Simm), who’s hunting a serial killer when he gets hit by a car and wakes up in 1973. He arrives in his new era with a life already in progress — including a very cool leather jacket and a job on the same police force.
Tyler is baffled not only by the 33-year blip but also by the societal differences he encounters. The ’70s cops make no bones about bending the law (e.g., keeping jewels and drugs in their office to plant on suspects); forensics are nearly useless (results take two weeks); and political correctness is decades away (mocking the disabled and making boob jokes to a female witness are standard procedure). All of this torments Tyler as he longs for his previous life — not to mention his cell phone — and struggles to get back. (He has visions that suggest he might be caught in an elaborate coma-induced dream.)
Simm easily navigates the gritty cop plotlines and the mystical sci-fi elements, thanks to his distinctly British regular-bloke appeal. And his crackling chemistry with gruff boss Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) only adds to the series’ charm. It’s Quantum Leap meets The Streets of San Francisco — with nary a C, S, or I in sight.
Life on Mars