Farewell, Life on Mars - and Good Riddance | Street Jazz

Farewell, Life on Mars - and Good Riddance

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Well, I really wanted to like ABC’s Life on Mars. Both Tracy and I loved the British version, and we are enjoying the sequel, Ashes to Ashes. The story of police detective Sam Tyler, who is struck by a car and ends up in 1973 seems to be a winning formula. Is he in a coma? Has he traveled back in time? Is he in  an alternate universe?

What’s not to love about that concept?

Well, there was a great deal to love about the original - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_on_Mars_(TV_series) - but, like so many shows from overseas, it did not translate well once it was redone into “American.”

Where hints were subtle on the original, on the ABC show, they were delivered with all the gentleness  of a lead pipe. And much as I love Harvey Keitel (who doesn’t?), there is truly only one Lt. Gene Hunt, and that is Philip Glenister. To see him in action is to see a primal force on screen.

But I think what finally did the show in was the producers’ unwillingness to go all the way with the fantasy elements of the series, especially when they were switched to Wednesday nights. The hints about what was really happening to Sam were shoved to the background, and the series seemed to become a sort of straight 70s cop show.

Been there, done that.

So when the series ends in two weeks, a rushed ending will no doubt be improvised. The producers say that it will be completely different from the British version, which seems appropriate, I suppose, since this series turned out to be  almost as far from the original as you could get.

******

Quote of the Day

"If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery ,it is that, in the long run - and often in the short one - the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative." - Arthur C. Clarke - 1951.

*****

God is nowhere? Or: God is now here?

In a perfect world, television networks wouldn't be run by soulless automatons, concerned only with the bottom line. In my idea of the perfect world, television programs would actually be given a chance to find an audience and a following before being yanked off the air.

Ah - silly me.

Miracles (2003) is another one of those shows that you might have enjoyed, had you actually known it was on. Like so many series before it, it concerns a group who investigate what we like to refer to as "the unknown." No, not Bigfoot - that's for would-be scientists who think that Coors has all the essential vitamins they need.

The Miracles team looked into so-called miracles, trying to determine how authentic they might be. Paul Callan (Skeet Ulrich - Jericho) is a priest who had previously served the same function for the Roman Catholic Church, only to leave due to his frustration over the fact that the church didn't really seem all that interested in the cases they were sending him out on. The idea that some of the "miracles” might be real seemed to make some in the church hierarchy nervous.

While looking into one case, Callan is involved in a car accident, and sees the words, "God is now here," written in his own blood.

Or, as pointed out to him later, was he really seeing, "God is nowhere?" This brings him into contact with Alva Keel, formerly of Harvard, now full-time investigator of the paranormal. Keel feels that dangerous events may be happening at an accelerated pace on the spiritual realm, and that they must look into these occurrences.

They join up with a former police officer (Marisa Ramirez - General Hospital) and begin to find their way through this psychic maze. I wonder how you find a psychic detective agency, anyway?

Miracles had a good pedigree; executive producer David Greenwalt was one of the creators of Buffy the vampire Slayer, and had worked on the spin-off, Angel. Richard Hatem, writer of many of the shows, helped guide The Dead Zone on the USA network.

Even so, ABC did its usual bang-up job of mishandling a truly creative series, giving it an extremely poor time slot, and giving it very poor promotion. As a result, the show was canceled after only six episodes.

Interesting thing about shows that are yanked like this - when these shows are shown in foreign countries, those viewers often get to see the entire run of episodes. And so it was with Miracles; though American viewers were denied the final seven shows, foreign viewers were able to see them.

But now, thanks to the magic circles known as DVDs, we in the states can now enjoy them. Almost without fail, the episodes are intriguing, and provide the viewer with more than a few chills. The only weak episode is the last one, in which I felt they were trying to tie up a few too many loose ends.

Sure, a lot of it has been done before, but it's how you tell the story that matters. The crew behind Miracles have a sure hand when it comes to storytelling, and the guest star roster is also impressive.
   
rsdrake@nwark.com

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