By Aubry D'Arminio
Updated October 17, 2008 at 06:35 PM EDT

Last night’s Life on Mars was chock-a-block with blasts from the past, but I’m not talking about the hippies, the hash or the butterfly collars. I mean the boatload of cable stars that appeared in it. First, there’s series regular Michael Imperioli off The Sopranos. Then add The Wire’s Pablo Schreiber (as doomed thief/murderer/heroin smuggler Kent), The L Word’s Heather Matarazzo (double-crossing precinct secretary June), and Oz’s Lee Tergesen (Assistant D.A. Crocker). Lots of serious TV talent for a second episode methinks.

Yet yesterday’s breakouts were once again leads Jason O’Mara and Harvey Keitel, coming in second in total greatness only to the scores of quotable lines. Here’s a sampling: “Looks like she was cute before she put on the dead chick mask,” “If ignorance was a drug, you’d be high all the time,” and “As they say in New Orleans, bayou.” Someone also mentioned something about a ride to pummel city,” which I didn’t quite catch as my companion took that exact moment to complain about the show’s “silly” script. Dude doesn’t get it.

What he also didn’t appreciate was how close O’Mara and Keitel came to replicating the chemistry between the original Sam and Gene that made the British LoM so gosh darn good—specifically during the scene in which they roughhoused at the foot of June’s hospital bed while at the same time having a serious conversation (pictured). That said, I’m still not totally convinced that Keitel will ever nail Gene “you are surrounded by armed bastards” Hunt. I won’t bore those who don’t pray at the old LoM’s altar, but Philip Glenister’s Gene was the type of grumpy, abusive (he invented the “bruise-free groin slap”) and alcoholic dinosaur that still managed to be sexy. I doubt Harvey will ever be sexy. Any attraction to him would, in Gene’s immortal words, be “as fake as a tranny’s fanny.”

But the show’s still got me interested—and scouring the net for my favorite lines for the Brit version (“If I was as worried as you, I’d never fart for fear of sh**ing myself,” and “I’m ‘avin hoops.”). After the jump, I posted one of my finds (a set of outtakes) to delight fellow groupies. Now you still down with Life on Mars? Scared it will, like Swingtown and Journeyman before it, choke on its own gimmick? Have any other insights into the episode I didn’t cover? And if anyone can tell me what song played at the end when Sam chased the fake cop, I’d greatly appreciate it…

addCredit(“Eric Liebowitz/ABC”)