Saturday, October 11, 2008

TV REVIEW: "Life on Mars"

I'm a child of the 80s, hardly interested in the 70s. I don't own tracks by The Beatles or The Bee Gees or even Led Zeppelin, but somehow this period piece managed to resonate with me. The musical choices are spot-on, the tinted-cinematography--taking on browns, oranges, and reds as opposed to 2008's blues, blacks, and grays--capture the era of revolution and revolt perfectly. It was a time where cops weren't really regulated--warrants were hardly issued, police brutality was mostly expected, and sexism in the workplace was accepted. My eyes nearly popped out of their sockets when I learned that women once had their own police department where the only cases they tended to were lost animals and battered women claims. Seriously? It made me think that maybe this show would be more tumultuous if it were a girl who went back in time, but that's not to say this character isn't interesting...well at least his circumstances are.

Jason O'Mara plays Detective Sam Tyler, a cop who tracks down a serial killer in present day, but loses him on a technicality. There was surveillance proving he was innocent. It was only later, when his partner and lover Maya (Lisa Bonet from "The Cosby Show") was kidnapped by the serial killer, that they discovered the suspect had a twin. Before he could go save Maya, he got hit by a car and he woke up in 1973. The most jarring moment of that scene should've been how sudden the car appeared, but what will be unforgettable is how he realized he wasn't in 2008 anymore. It wasn't his clothes or the old car parked beside him or the A-track playing inside of it or the fact that the police officer trying to make him leave the premises was confused by the word "cell," but the incredible sight bearing down on him--a sight I'm sure no one ever expects to see whether in person or on TV: the Twin Towers, fully intact. And as the music swelled to the lyrics, "Is there life on Mars?," I started to notice how the scenery was tinted in red. It's enough to take your breath away.

The methods in which they solve cases in the 70s is entertaining to watch and the attention to detail is incredible, but aside from the fact that we know he's in a coma because of the cool way that the world around him starts to meld with present day--like the doctor on TV who tried to examine his eyes and the CB radio that had Maya reassuring him that she was okay--the most interesting aspects of the episode were the ground shots of the Twin Towers. Not only were they shown in the beginning, but at the end too when he came to the conclusion that his work wasn't done in that world, despite the fact that he had solved the first case he was assigned to, capturing the man who was responsible for influencing the serial killer who kidnapped Maya. What does it mean? Are they a symbol for what once was and what this world stood for, or was it just a shameless ploy to get viewers talking?

Either way, I don't really see the point of the series, besides the opportunity to recreate a period the way that "Mad Men" and "Rome" have been applauded for. If all of this is indeed happening in his head, does it actually affect the world? And if it doesn't, then what's the point? Is all of this just a metaphor for a lesson he must learn? I'll check out one more episode.

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