Life On Mars USA: pilot episode leaks

The Americanised Life On Mars pilot episode has hit the Internet early. According to early reports, fears have well and truly been realised...

Life On Mars goes to America...

Another US TV show has leaked early, and this is one that we were fascinated to find out about. Here’s the report that one of our readers sent in: 

The leaking of pre-air American TV show pilots is rapidly turning from a trickle into a monsoon. First True Blood and now the Americanised version of BBC’s Life On Mars.

Since Steve Carroll’s take on The Office people have taken these transatlantic conversions more seriously, but after seeing this particular that honeymoon might well be over.

For any of the actors in this production reading this, you’re not doing much wrong, it’s just this doesn’t work – it’s lost in translation.

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The UK version worked because it anchored itself in our TV lore, using The Sweeney and Softy-Softly Task Forceas cultural references. But this version chooses to avoid those associations, instead going for a litigation-friendly homogenous 70s cop show that’s not remotely evocative of anything.

As a result, while Colm Meaney is a fine actor, his Gene Hunt isn’t funny, witty, memorable or interesting in any way. But it gets worse, the comedy duo of Carling and Skelton are entirely missing, and Annie’s character is pushed forward out of the blocks as a potential love interest within minutes of being introduced. It’s all wrong, and it goes entirely off the rails before it’s even got going.

But the translation has also thrown up some wonderful differences between British and American culture. When John Simm’s Sam Tyler turns up and says he’s from the future, the characters laugh at him. When Jason O’Mara’s does the same thing people refer him to a good ‘therapist’. But they’ve also got themselves spiked on the end of other more modern predilections; this is a 1972 oddly free of sexism and racism it seems. Also we see nobody smoke, although cigarettes are littered everywhere – like that makes any sense?

It’s also looks like it was something of a nightmare for the production team, because other than a few original vehicles it’s a chronological mess. When Sam wakes up next to the car we’re presented with a really piss poor CGI steadycam sweep of LA behind him, emphasising I presume that there aren’t any suitable places to get a real shot like that any more. The French Connection is playing on the local cinema, except that was released a whole year earlier. I’m sure if I looked closer I could find a million other things. It’s like they didn’t care – or they’d been told it was a dream and so it didn’t matter if Sam didn’t remember things correctly.

In the final analysis this is a version of Life on Mars where everything that made the original worthwhile has been bleached out, leaving a hollow husk to twist in the wind. Unless the people making this start to ‘get it’ very quickly, then this won’t actually make it to the end of the first season, or even half way there.