ABC - 6th November 2008 - 10.00pm
It's a funny old series this. I was getting on fine until last week's carbon copy of one of the UK episodes stopped this series dead in its tracks. If this were Strictly Come Dancing, I'd be Craig Revel-Horwood and I'd be saying: 'Stilted, uneven, derivative and dull' and I'd raise my score thingy and I would give it 1 or 2 for effort. It once again plunders the UK series for a storyline, but this time from Series 2 where Sam assists the first black detective in the department who turns out to be his mentor back in 2006. Granted that's the only bit they've used. But look what they did with it...
...the idea of riots between ethnic minorities kind of slips by and gets largely forgottenIt basically became Starsky And Hutch this week. Sam was joined by a young, hip, black detective and they get together to solve the case of a young girl apparently murdered by a Puerto Rican cleaner. Now, that's OK as it's obviously trying its best to address much of the racial conflicts and unrest of the early 1970s and we'll award them points for adding that to their list of storylines featuring minorities. Just the feminists left now, I think. The trouble is that, as well as making Sam and Fletcher into Starsky and Hutch, complete with trademark vehicle with go faster stripes and crime-funk music on the soundtrack, they filter the black experience through a none too subtle blaxploitation frame of reference. Lots of jive-talking, leather coats and sunglasses, wide collars, gold jewellery and then Whoopi Goldberg in an impossibly huge afro impersonating a male radio host called Reverend Love Butter. Honestly. With all that...well...high camp...going on, the idea of riots between ethnic minorities kind of slips by and gets largely forgotten, only happening via Whoopi's narrative over archive footage of riots. Nice.
I feel slightly sorry for Jonathan Murphy as he's getting less and less to do as Chris Skelton.There is a neat twist in the end which does show the deeply antagonistic Ray Carling and Gene Hunt in a slightly more positive light. Mind you, if what Gene had done to resolve the situation had actually happened that might have made this a tougher and better episode. The regulars are all good, as per usual, but Harvey gets very little to do in this one. Michael Imperioli is getting better and better and actually is starting to eclipse Harvey. Maybe they should have cast him as Gene Hunt instead. I feel slightly sorry for Jonathan Murphy as he's getting less and less to do as Chris Skelton. In the original UK series the interplay between Chris and Ray often became the highlight of the show and was downright hilarious. It's absence here is telling. The two characters rarely do this and Chris tends to sink into the background. Shame, as Murphy is very cute, especially with those sideburns adorning his babyish face. Bless.
I have a feeling that the dynamic between Jason O'Mara and Edi Gathegi (playing the young Fletcher Bellow) will lead to further re-matches. They do make an engaging pair but it's a bit light and fluffy and it does skew the relationship between Sam and Gene, hence Gene disappearing from the story for long periods here. If Starsky And Hutch is what they're going to use as a template then can we just have it toughened up a bit please? It's coming across as a bit I'm Gonna Git You Sucka at the moment.
I'm not warming to the idea that God has plans for SamLayered into the solving of the case is what seems to be some evidence of the producers' mythology for the series. In the UK version we were more or less kept guessing as to what had happened to Sam and who Gene & Co were. Here, Sam is presented with totemic figures, almost spirit guides you could say, who obviously know much more about his situation than he does. There is a suggestion that he's either in some sort of after-life and everyone around him is actually dead or he's doing a Quantum Leap on us. I have a feeling that we're not going down the route the UK series took. This episode also hits us over the head very heavily with a religious theme which seems to connect to the notion of the after-life. Much talk of miracles and the like. I must say I'm not warming to the idea that God has plans for Sam and that he's some kind of angel.
So, an episode with a light touch around the thorny question of black empowerment mixed in with an indication that Sam is an agent of God? The murder case is not exactly gripping stuff and Whoopi Goldberg in a kinky afro the size of Manhattan didn't convince me they were taking the politics seriously. Tokenism at best and that's a shame because their episode about gays in the military was much better handled than this. However, it is an improvement on last week's which was a rather pointless exercise.
ABC Life On Mars site
Cathode Ray Tube Life On Mars US Episode 5 ABC
- Freelance writer and film and television researcher (for hire).
He has contributed to a number of books and websites about British archive television and cinema as well as recent television series including work for Moviemail, Frame Rated and Arrow Video. Publications include I.B Tauris's 'Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour - A Critical
Celebration of the Matt Smith and Steven Moffat Era' (2013) and 'Doctor
Who - The Pandorica Opens' (2010).
- Adventures in Prime Time
- Behind the Sofa
- Blogtor Who
- British Television Drama
- Cardigans & Tweed
- Dez Skinn
- Dirty Modern Scoundrel
- Doctor Who Appreciation Society
- Doctor Who Newspage
- Feeling Listless
- Frame Rated
- Gareth Bundy's Blog
- Green Carnation Prize
- Int. Jason Arnopp's Mind - Day/Night
- Island of Dreams
- Jonathan Melville
- Ka-os Theory
- Lady Don't Fall Backwards
- Life of Wylie
- Life on Magrs
- Narrative Drive
- Paul Mount's World of Stuff
- Pseudo Random Noise
- Radio Free Skaro
- TV Lover
- Tachyon TV
- Tardis Newsroom
- Television Heaven
- The Custard TV
- The Digital Bits
- The Fan Can
- The Medium is Not Enough
- The Railway Arms
- The Thumbcast
- Thierry Attard's Double Feature
- from the north...
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