One of the shows coming out this year that I’m anticipating and worried about the most is the ABC remake of Life On Mars. A little while ago, I watched the leaked pilot episode and was pretty dismayed at the effort put into the show. It was a pretty close copy of the original UK version (which is brilliant, and one of the best TV shows out there) but far, far worse.
Since then, things have been looking up, somewhat. Following the general reaction of the US pilot, the producers have gone and done a huge shakeup of the cast – all new actors, save for the original guy who plays Sam Tyler and judging from the pictures, they’ve re-worked a lot of the things that were put in the original for no reason, such as making Annie a detective right off the bat, seemingly to keep her around for a love interest.
Here’s a recent trailer that was posted up:
And, a clip from the show:
These new changes have instilled a sense of optimism and a little more confidence in me regarding this new re-make. I’ve been very hesitant to be hopeful about any remake of the US show, because the first version was so well crafted that it borders on perfection, and I don’t say that lightly. The acting, sets, concepts and scripts were absolutely wonderful, and I was at the edge of my seat the entire time I watched an episode.
What worried, and still worries me a little is that a lot of the subtle elements were seemingly being disregarded with this new version. I’m not so much worried that things will be changed up dramatically – I’m worried that story elements will be changed only for the sake of appearance, and not story. In the original version, there’s some sparks between Sam and Annie. In the US version, this seems to have been started right out of the gate, which seems very superficial and it’s something that could harm the show in the long run.
Most of all, what I appreciated about the UK version was the real historical theme that ran with it – for someone who lived in England for only a little while, I suspect that I’m just seeing the tip of the iceberg here. The original dealt with issues such as the introduction of heroin, immigration, IRA and terrorism, gambling, corruption, all things that were highlighted by introducing a character with knowledge of how things would turn out into the 1970s. Automatically, this makes the show an intelligent idea, and the same can be true of the US version, so long as the producers don’t insist upon copying every move. There are a number of differences between US and UK social history, especially when it comes to immigration, drugs, social order, etc. What I’d most like to see is something on US race relations during the 1970s, as well as Women’s rights, not to mention the various other things you can do with a crime drama. I suspect that there are a number of stories and story lines that can be done about corruption, immigration, drugs, homicide, etc. Using the show as a sort of social commentary, I think, is the original’s strength
The second big concern was that the characters would be retaining as much of their original flavor. While I’m not as big on some of the story lines, I was concerned that the cast didn’t have the same weight as the original cast. The characters here really made the show, because of their complexity, and the subtle cues that the actors brought to the screen. The original pilot had a decent attempt, but I had, and still have a number of reservations about the lead, Jason O’Mara, but from clips, it looks like Harvey Keitel will do a good job as Gene Hunt. Just so long as he utters the following at some point:
Hands up! You’re surrounded by armed bastards!