Last night's episode of time-traveling cop show Life On Mars was the first episode not loosely based on the British version. And if that's the direction the show aims to go in from now on, I'm a tad concerned. I miss Journeyman, last year's show about a man unstuck in time. It used to convey the horrors and occasional profundities of the past in much subtler, and smarter, ways. This felt like a one-hour lesson in tolerance and sweetness, wrapped up in a too-loud soundtrack and capped off with some weak humor. Did you know that gay-bashing was wrong? And that gays are people too? If not, then maybe you'd be interested in being brow-beaten by Jason O'Mara and Harvey Keitel about it. The scene where Keitel lectures Michael Imperioli about how it's still wrong to kill people even if they're gay was the worst, mostly because Keitel looked narcoleptic as usual. If I'm going to be lectured on tolerance, I'd like my lecturer at least to be half-awake. Just in case you actually did doze off during this episode, here's what happened. The gang from the 125 found a dead Vietnam Veteran in the park, and Harvey Keitel went ballistic (well, sort of. He twitched in his sleep) about solving the crime. At first, the crew thought the dirty anti-war hippies had done it, which was our cue for lots of scenes of people dancing in hotpants and Sam having weird acid-y flashbacks even though he hadn't dropped any acid. And then Sam met the dead guy's faggy accountant (this show is subtle!!) and had to be told in very simple words that the dead guy was probably gay. Eventually, Sam convinced Harvey of this fact, and then they sent the prettiest of the young cops out to the park to serve as "bait" for the gay bashers. They caught the gay-bashers, but it turned out the dead guy's squad leader had actually done it, because the squad leader was all closeted. In the end, Sam didn't have the heart to tell the dead guy's wife he was actually gay. Basically, someone reached in a bag of Topical 1970s Issues, and found "Vietnam," "hippies," "gurus," and "gay-bashing." And they sort of threw them together in a random order. And the humor? Erk. The whole business where the pretty cop realized his uncle was gay, because he met a guy in the park who looked sort of like the uncle? The way Sam kept saying he believed in the whimsical culicues of fate? And my personal pet peeve, the prison-rape-is-hilarious scene? ("Major sodomy" involves kissing! Ha ha ha ha!) This was the first time I felt as though my worst fears about this U.S. remake were justified. Actually, there's a bigger problem with the show at this point than the whole "show we're more enlightened than those 70s trogoldytes" motif. And that's the cheese factor. The big fear, with the U.S. Life On Mars, was that it was going to play up the kitschy aspects of the early 70s, and the producers have gone out of their way to insist they're not going to do that. "No lava lamps," they told reporters, including me. And last night's episode, with the random Maharishi and silly hippies, came a bit close for comfort. I don't know, maybe I'm being too hard on it. It did have occasional moments of charm. And I was really liking this show until now. What did you guys think?
This episode did lack subtlety, agreed.
I mean a gay bar named "Along Comes Mary." Subtle. Why didn't they go with something a bit more subtle, like "Here Be Queers?"
I think that is the real difference between the UK and US version. The US version is not going to assume that the viewer can pick up subtle cues. They are going to beat us over the head with it.
That was the role the hippies played in this episode. They had such an obvious axe to grind, and they so obviously had such opportunity to have killed the soldier, well then they must have done it.
I still have some hope for this show. I think it can find it's legs and move forward into some new and interesting ground.
I am still hoping that there is an "end" in site for this story. The thought of poor Sam being trapped in the 70's for 5 or 6 years is just not cool.