I never caught this series on BBC1 when it first aired, but having read the reviews of people on here, decided I would buy the first series and take a look at it myself, and see what all the fuss was about.
Having watched almost the whole first series in its entirity, (I am six episodes in) on the sheer basis of the first six episodes alone, I give it five stars. John Simm is proving to be an excellent actor, certainly he plays DI Sam Tyler with the right mixture of confusion, vulnerability, sadness and determination that makes him instantly likeable.
The premise is quite simple. DI Tyler is involved in a horrific car crash, and wakes up in 1973 - the time when man made fibres were the order of the day, Ford Cortinas were hot, and when Mobile Phones were possibly "forgein numbers" and the world was still to be introduced to the concept of a TV in a bar. Tyler is left to unravel the mystery of what is happening to him - is this all a dream? a product of his mind, brought on by the coma from his accident? Is he going mad, or is 2006 a figment of his imagination and 1973 is reality?
It's powerful, gripping television and I watched the first six episodes back to back. Sam is an engaging character, a lost man trying to make sense of the world he is in, and get to grips with brutal methods of policing. Reading a suspect his rights "doesn't go like that" there weren't tape recorders used back then, and Sam finds himself regularly haunted by the girl off the TV test card.
Sam also clashes on a regular basis with the hardline methods of his superior "Gene" played by Phillip Glennister. Glennister ignites the screen in every scene he's in, and though the two rarely see eye to eye, together their screen presence is commanding and an absolute joy to watch.
There's chemistry too between Sam and WPC Annie, which develops over the course of the six episodes i've seen so far, and I look forward to seeing what happens next. Unfortunately, being made aware of the ending in the second series before I have even finished watching series one (I didn't read the spoilers on here) does slightly detract from me enjoying the series, but performances all round are so engaging, its hard to resist.
It could have gone terribly wrong. For so many reasons it should have never worked, but John Simm plays his role so well, he makes it believable, and crucially, makes it work. He conveys the right amount of bewilderment, frustration, determination and anguish to make you care, and make you really believe he is trapped in 1973. Had anyone played the role with less enthusiasm, it could have been a very different story for Life On Mars. Just as importantly, the show manages to blend in enough humour to keep you laughing as well, which I feel is important to the story as it could have become very gloomy, downtrodden and overtly gritty. This adds to the overall charm of the show, and I think is another reason why it became such a smash hit.
If you have never seen this, and are a fan of cop shows - and the paranormal, and anything just plain odd - buy this! I can't recommend it highly enough and will definitely get series 2! I only wish I had brought them together, because now I have to wait for series 2 to arrive through the post!