Life On Mars returns to the ABC prime time lineup tonight at 10:00, and the move to Wednesday, following Lost, presents challenges and opportunities. The good news is that the potent lead-in will drive a lot more viewers to sample this excellent drama. The flip side is that both shows deal with time travel in a big way, and asking viewers to concentrate on complex plots back-to-back is asking a lot.
Let me say this straight out, it’s worth the time investment. You could make a strong argument that these are the two best series on network television right now.
Setting a weekly, one hour drama, in 1973 is an ambitious and expensive thing to do. Yes, this is an Americanized version of a successful British show, but you know how these across the pond cultural exchanges go … chances for success aren’t much better than 50/50.
So what does Life On Mars have going for it? First and foremost, a terrific cast. Jason O’Mara is believable and likable as Sam Tyler … the New York City Cop from 2009 who suddenly finds himself back in 1973 after being hit by a car. Harvey Keitel, Michael Imperioli and Gretchen Mol add depth, and serious acting chops to the supporting cast. In fact you may have noticed that in re-introducing the series ABC has focused almost all the attention on the actors. The promo spots don’t talk about the plot or the retro setting.