For decades now, American TV has adapted some of the better British shows. The one that comes to my mind immediately is Man About The House which we know as Three’s Company. There have been more successes, but there have been some flops as well — Coupling comes to mind, which was a smash in the UK, but fizzled out very quickly here. Recently the hit series Life on Mars was adapted for American TV and sadly lasted for only 17 episodes.
The series follows New York City homicide detective Sam Tyler (Jason O’Mara) who is tracking down a criminal in 2008 when he is hit by a car. When he comes to he somehow finds himself transported back to 1973. The series combines a number of genres including science fiction, thriller, and police drama as well as being a period piece.
Tyler has to determine why he was sent back to the '70s – is it real, a dream, or something else? He goes to where his police department was in 2008 and must deal with how the police were in the '70s. He finds things are done much differently and works with Lt. Gene Hunt (Harvey Keitel) who hits first and asks questions later. There’s also Detective Ray Carling (Michael Imperioli) who calls Tyler “Spaceman” (that’s a clue to the end of the series) and Policewoman Annie Norris (Gretchen Mol) who is nicknamed "No Nuts Norris" by her co-workers.
I won’t do a comparison of the original to the American version for a number of reasons, including the fact that I’ve only seen the first series of the UK version and am eagerly looking forward to the final season. But I like both shows. I do think the UK version is a bit better, but both have great casts and deal with time in the 1970s in a great way.
The show suffered from long hiatuses and airing episodes out of order, and those who loved the original series didn’t give it a chance. Thankfully ABC gave the series enough notice that it was able to wrap up the story line. Contrary to belief the ending that aired was where the show would have eventually gone, so they stuck to their plans and didn’t alter anything because of premature cancellation.
There are four commentaries spread out over the four discs, which include the pilot and the finale. Participants include producers Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec, Scott Rosenberg, Michael Katleman, and star Jason O'Mara. They discuss what it was like filming the show, how they remained faithful to the original version, and in the finale talk about what would have been the cliffhanger had the show been renewed.
“To Mars and Back” is the making of featurette that has interviews with the cast and crew where they discuss the challenges of shooting a show set in the 1970s, staying true to the UK version and their enjoyment of the show.
“Sunrise to Sunset with Jason O’Mara” is a behind the scenes featurette which follows star Jason O’Mara from start to finish on one of his days.
“Flashback: Lee Major Goes to Mars” features Lee Majors (Six Million Dollar Man, '70s icon) taking a tour of the Life on Mars set and talking about his memories of the 1970s.
“Spaced Out” is their cute name for a brief blooper reel with your standard flubs and crack-ups.
There are also deleted scenes, which O’Mara references during the finale commentary and are available to view here. They were cut for time and didn’t add much to the plot which is why they were cut.