ABC - 30th October 2008 - 10.00pm
More or less a direct re-make of the original UK Episode 4. Writer David Wilcox must have dusted down Ashley Pharoah's original draft, scribbled a few changes on the pages, bunged it in the photocopier and then distributed it to the actors and crew. Nothing to see here, alas.
Certain names have been used to protect the guilty - hence, Sam's mum, originally named Ruth in the Pharoah script, is renamed Rose here. OK, who's the Doctor Who fan amongst the producers? It was a wee bit of a gratuitous homage, I'd say. Sam renames himself Detective Luke Sykwalker when his mum asks his name, so ditto for the Star Wars crowd. He was Inspector Bolan in the UK version, if you're really interested. And the 1973 musical cameo, Marc Bolan in the UK, is substituted wth Jim Croce who apparently had much the same trouble with light aircraft that Marc had driving Minis.
This is a shame. It is all acted very competently, quite elegantly directed by Alex Zakrzewski and passes the time entertainingly enough. Zakrzewski's handling of Sam's LSD hallucinations was brilliant - a collage of images including Rose and Gene dancing in front of footage of Nixon and Vietnam. I just wish they'd taken the basic premise - police corruption and backhanders from gangsters - and woven a different story around it. It was inevitable that we would meet Sam's mum and the younger Sam. Jennifer Ferrin was very good as Rose Tyler and even the Oedipal mind-twister of adult Sam fancying his own mother was wittily addressed.
Gretchen Mol finally thaws out as Annie.All the regulars, bar Jonathan Murphy as Chris Skelton who had very little to do here, were uniformly excellent. Jason O'Mara is settling into the role of Sam well and certainly, from the rather saucy bed-handcuffing scene, one can appreciate the physical attributes he brings to the role. Keitel continues down his own path, making Gene a much wearier soul than the UK version and he's developing a nice chemistry with O'Mara. However, he was a little too laid back in this one for me, especially in arresting the gang members. I much prefer him battering hell out of suspects with chairs. Michael Imperioli is fleshing out Ray Carling with deft touches, escalating the antagonism between him and O'Mara. But best of all, Gretchen Mol finally thaws out as Annie. She's much more like the Annie we know and love and Mol played her obvious crush on Sam with great delicacy. A welcome development, making the character much more loveable.
Apart from that, there is little to say. The UK version is infinitely better and the US version doesn't do anything remarkable with the script to warrant placing it in preference to Ashley Pharoah's original and comes off, at worse, as a rather lazy exercise. Must try harder.
ABC Life On Mars site
Cathode Ray Tube Life On Mars US Episode 4 ABC