I don’t really understand why America is afraid of British TV. It’s the same language, you know, and unlike the heyday of Dr. Who, modern British TV looks essentially as good as modern American TV. And like 300 percent better than anything on UPN. This fear of British TV leads to a phenomenon where American producers buy the rights to popular new UK shows and remake them with Yank casts.
The latest to get this treatment is Life on Mars, the smash hit new cop show with a twist. After a serial killer abducts his girlfriend, Detective Sam Tyler is hit by a car and wakes up in the 1970s, where he’s on the police force. Is he time traveling? Is he dead? Is he in a coma and dreaming it all? To make matter odder, Tyler’s first case seems tied in to the serial killer he was after before the accident.
I’ve seen the first episode of the show (which takes its title from a David Bowie song that connects the eras), and it was interesting, but I can tell you that this is a concept tailor made for British TV, where the seasons are short and shows aren’t assumed to be open ended. This is not a premise that can be sustained over multiple 22 episode American television seasons by any means. I wish that this was a lesson American TV learned – imagine how much better Lost would be with 8 hours of filler trimmed away? HBO seems to understand that when it comes to episodic narratives, shorter is better.
The American Life on Mars will air on ABC.