First, let me say that I have never seen the original British series. That being said, I really dug "Life on Mars," and I think it has some legs if ABC sticks with it.
After a stark, cold present-day opening, the show immediately set up a contrast between the past and the present, with the 1973 scenes bathed in a weird hazy yellow. I really like that - it adds to the dream-like state of the past for Sam and adds elements of doubt as to how and why he is back in time.
Jason O'Mara was really terrific...especially in the final scene. SPOILER WARNING: Of course, he's not going to shoot the kid...but there's a moment where as an audience, you're unsure. That's entirely due to O'Mara's acting. After seeing him here, I wish I could see his aborted Philip Marlowe pilot. He could have done a nice job with the character.
And Harvey Keitel...thank God he didn't take the "Criminal Minds" job. He's perfect as Hunt, a ball-breaking thug of a cop. He and O'Mara have good chemistry and I can't wait to see their relationship develop.
My only complaint is that the supporting players (particularly Gretchen Mol's Annie) respond too indifferently to Sam's rantings. Although their response could be based, as Michael Imperioli's character suggests, on the fact that everyone in the 125th Precinct is a little nuts.
Major points to the soundtrack, especially the use of the Stones' "Out of Time." Who knows how long the trip will last, but I'll keep travelling back with Sam Tyler for as long as ABC keeps him going.