Phillip Glenister's Gene Hunt was often the popular point of the series during the show's two-season run on BBC One. His politically incorrect way of speaking and handling suspects is at times cringeworthy, but adds an extra flavor to the more politically correct, moralistic views of John Simm's Sam Tyler. I almost thought at one point that the two could have been brothers. Sam certainly acts like the good-natured little brother, while Gene acts like the super cool but bullish older brother.
Some of the episodes try to infer that Sam is really in the past as several people who were important to his past become part of of his investigations. In the fourth episode, Sam discovers that his mother (in 1973) is being bullied by a local mobster. In the last episode of the first series, Sam discovers that his father (who disappeared when he was a child) is a suspect in a murder. This thread of Sam's past coming to greet him repeats in the second and final season.
It's been suggested that Life On Mars could have gone on for a third season. I personally feel it needed another season at the time the show ended. After thinking about it for a while, I have decided two years was enough for this kind of plotline.
The Series 1 DVD box set comes with a nice little set of special features that include audio commentaries on each episode, a documentary on the making of the series behind the scenes, an interview with Bharat Nalluri (who directed some episodes of LOM), a featurette with Ed Butt (composer for Life On Mars) and a featurette with Brian Sykes, the production designer for the series. If you like watching actors mess up, an outtakes reel is included as well.
Life On Mars is a bizarre cross between a cop show and a sci-fi drama. A good bizarre at that. The quality of the original series makes you wonder why the ABC remake sucked.