on 22 September 2006
I live in Los Angeles, California, USA and caught this series when it aired on BBC America here over the past two months. Although it's basically a tried and true setting of a police station, the characters are deep and the acting is spectacular. John Simm is brilliant... Philip Glenister is raw and sensational. It was the one show on any channel (I have 150+) that I not only couldn't wait for the next episode, but that I watched religiously. It's the best show on television... period. It's not perfect, of course, but Sam Tyler and DCI Gene Hunt are pretty close. The writing is solid and witty, the conflicts are realistic, and the juxtaposition between the two worlds is executed more solidly than most anything I've seen. I cannot wait for Season 2.
I purchased the DVD for obvious reasons and as it's not available in the states, I didn't mind paying $50 US for it. It's worth every penny and I would have paid double that.
Writer/Producer David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal, The Practice, Boston Legal) has optioned the rights for a US version and although I believe it would be near impossible to carry over the same world and feel to the States... if anyone can do it, David E. Kelley can. He is developing it for next season (Fall 2007-2008).
on 13 May 2006
With a title borrowed from David Bowie and the presence of John Simm (last seen in the absorbing 'State Of Play'), this wonderfully witty and inventive drama series had me hooked from the moment I saw the advert.
The chemistry between Simm's DI Sam Tyler and Philip Glenister's scene-stealing role as DCI Gene 'The Gene Genie' Hunt (second Bowie reference) is one of the main crux of this show. Their difficult relationship straddles resentment, absolute loathing and complete reliance, resulting in hilarity (such as Glenister's wonderful one-liners) or nail-bitting drama (like Tyler and Hunt's clashes of character).
By blending what could have been just another gritty crime drama with the element of sci-fi and fantasy, the shows creators have made, with the help of a script that's full of wit, warmth and intelligence, a fantastically engaging series. If you missed it when it first aired then I reccommend that you miss out no longer; 'Life On Mars' is proof, along with 'Dr Who', 'Hussle' and 'Cassanova', that the BBC can still make great television when it wants to.
It's also a great DVD package (spanning 4 discs) that shows the producers really care about their series; the two part Making Of documentary (on discs 1 and 2) is insightful and interesting and at about 45mins each, it's not a 15 minute collection of clips and actors telling you who their character is like you don't know. The documentaries about music (disc 3) and production (disc 4) are equally as intriging. I've not experienced the audio commentaries yet but with such a great cast I'm sure they'll be entertaining. Even the imaculately produced packaging shows the care that has gone into this boxed set. Just do yourself a favour and buy it now... my little deputy dawgs.
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!
on 13 April 2007
This series is great. And I'll admit I was a bit cynical when I first saw it, but it really is brilliant.
A modern day cop wakes up in the 1970s. Is he dreaming? In a coma? Mad?
It leaves it all very open but you have a modern day cop struggling to do his job in the 70s.
The acting is superb, and they do a fab job of really getting into the 1970s mindset. Fist fights all the time, sexist remarks, cool cars and of course stunning (cringy for some) clothing.
The dialogue is also very good. (especially the cussing and the attitudes of everyone). Can't wait to see series 2. I didn't see any of it when it was on TV but this DVD series is very good.
Made even better by super packaging and some good extras too.
on 4 November 2008
Life on Mars is arguably one of the better TV shows of the last 10 years, and so I feel no need to pick apart the series itself. Instead, this review will focus on the differences in video and audio quality between this Blu Ray release and the DVD. Life On Mars is presented with a 1080/24p AVC encode and 5.1 Dolby TruHD sound.
As noted by another reviewer the frame rate has been slowed down from 25fps to 24 - this is the format used on many Blu Ray movies as it is said to give motion a more film-like quality which Kudos are trying to replicate here. Having previously seen the show on DVD I could not notice any change in audio pitch or speed of movement caused by the slowdown, although each episode is a couple of minutes longer as a result.
In terms of video quality this release is everything I expected. Life on Mars was shot on 16mm film and was intended to have a very retro-70s look, so while there is a definite layer of grain (and the occasional scratch-mark/blemish) present, along with a slight softness in long and motion shots, these are all intentional. Close-up detail and colour reproduction show a definite improvement over the standard definition DVD. However, the biggest improvement comes with the sound, as the TruHD track is deeper and more well defined than anything previously released, especially when it comes to the fantastic early 70s soundtrack.
Ultimately, if you're expecting the Blu Ray of Life on Mars to be a pristine, pixel-perfect presentation then you're going to be disappointed. But if you want to see the series at its best and as the production team intended then look no further.
on 3 February 2012
Allegedly shot on 16mm film stock, transferring this to blu-ray should have been a straightforward process of scanning the original negatives. Sadly, the BBC has opted to use the PAL 576i broadcast as source material, and overlay a degree of film grain effect to try and make up the difference. The result is a very mild improvement on the DVD, but too many video artefacts are all too evident. The frame rate conversion leads to some very jittery looking pan shots, there are intrusively visible scan lines whenever there is high contrast, and there is certainly no more visual detail to be gleaned from upping the resolution. The sound does benefit from the process, but this is only half of the equation when producing an HD product. A brilliant series, but a very poor blu-ray release. For those looking to upgrade from their existing DVD of the series, I'd advise to give this version a miss.
on 1 August 2006
Originally, I started to watch this series on BBC America and was immediately hooked from the very first episode. However, having to wait two months to see all the episodes seemed a bit too long, so I decided to buy it from Amazon...and I am so happy that I did! Apparently, the show had been edited down and the pictures were 'cropped' for broadcast here. The DVD provides a version that can truly do this very imaginative, and well put-together show, justice. Excellent acting, wonderful music selection, and a 'look' that sometimes makes me wish I were back in the seventies. For those of you in America, who have access to a multi-region DVD player, this is definitely worth purchasing!
on 21 February 2006
This TV series was a breath of fresh air when first released in early 2006. Monday nights were a haven of poor tv shows and old repeats, until this modern classic was released to give us something to stay in for on a Monday. Quantam Leap meets The Sweeney if you will, the fine casting of John Simm and Philip Glenister meant that this show was not going to be cheesy or haphazard in any way. The storylines were exciting each week but kept the undercurrent of DI Tyler (Simm)'s personal plight, with nostalgic throwbacks to bring it up to modern day, eg. the girl from the playschool BBC test signal appearing as a voice from Tyler's present. Little touches such as the sweepstake on the Grand National where they all think Red Rum was a bad horse or Tyler meeting Marc Bolan added comedic touches to what is essentially a great serial cop drama. As I write this, the final episode is about to show, and I hope there is scope for more episodes without the format becoming boring. I just hope we don't have to wait until January 2007 to enjoy the box set, as this is certainly the most interesting show in years, as Monday night ratings will undoubtedly prove!!! enjoy
on 17 August 2006
This has it all! It has genius acting, wonderful characters, exciting storylines and the added dimension of whether Sam is genuinely in 1973, mad or in a coma.
John Sim's acting is a masterclass. There is a 10 second slowed down sequence where his character Sam Tyler realises he has just seen his 4 year old self walk past with his long lost Dad on the way to the football - and it has to be seen to be believed.
Phillip Glennister is amazing as the DCI Gene Hunt, the dominating presence in the station. The clash of the old and the new policing is beautifully summed up. As Gene says "I never fitted anyone up that wasn't guilty...".
Great one-liners abound:
Sam Tyler: " If it was a football related killing he'd have had serious injuries."
Gene Hunt: "He's dead - I'd say that's pretty serious..."
Gene Hunt: "Ray, go and arrest the landlord of the Black Horse."
Ray: "Er, on what charge, guv?"
Gene Hunt: "Think of something on the way..."
Utterly brilliant. We watched the series on DVD, then watched it again immediately. Buy it now!
on 8 January 2007
The brilliance of this show as a piece of entertainment is that it works on so many levels - a cop show, a piece of nostalgia, an illustration of how we as a society have changed, a view on the history of television, a reminder of where we've been and where we're going, a puzzle as to what is actually going on in the overall plot, as a metaphysical enquiry into what is really reality and where our place in it is... and, above all, seeing bad guys being given their lumps by 'good' guys (whatever 'good' means, in context.)
Then there's the music, the fashions, loads of subtle, underlying humour where you are in on the joke, great characters, dialogue, acting. But the most fascinating thing is - and the greatest accolade is for - creators Jordan, Graham and Pharoah coming up with the most outrageous concept imaginable, that should never have worked - and it working superbly.
THE must-see action drama of 2006, don't make yourself have to travel back in time to catch what is alleged to be the finale series in 2007. You'd sooner be hit by a speeding car.