wherein Anglonerd magazine attempts to convert Mars-virgins to binge-watch Life on Mars in celebration of the psychological, sci-fi cop drama’s tenth anniversary.
1. It’s available in the U.S.
Unlike many great British shows, Life on Mars is readily available in both region 1/NTSC DVD and streaming (on Hulu). Just don’t mistake it for the corny American remake with Jason O’Mara and Harvey Keitel.
2. It has an insane premise
Okay, so it’s a cop drama about a policeman who was hit by a car in 2006 and wakes up in 1972. Is he mad, in a coma, or back in time? How did this get made? The first time lead actor John Simm read it, he threw the script in the trash, but luckily, he gave it as second chance.
3. 16 hours of emo John Simm
Actor John Simm (playing Sam Tyler) is in literally every scene of Life on Mars, as the principle question is whether or not this world is all in his head. If you enjoyed the over-acting in Simm’s other small screen roles, like Code of a Killer, you’ll love Simm’s over-emotional reactions to the Test Card Girl, who escapes from Sam’s TV set.
4. David Bowie soundtrack
Who doesn’t want a TV show based entirely on lyrics of David Bowie songs? Obviously Life on Mars and its sequel series Ashes to Ashes are both named after David Bowie tracks, and Sam Tyler has Life on Mars playing on his iPod at the time of the car accident, but if you pay attention, you’ll see that the big secrets to the show have been hidden in Bowie’s lyrics all along. *ahem* Heroes *ahem*
5. The quotable Gene Hunt
Sam Tyler’s new boss in 1972 is Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister), who Sam describes as “an overweight, over-the-hill, nicotine-stained, borderline alcoholic homophobe with a superiority complex and an unhealthy obsession with male bonding.” Hunt replies, “You make that sound like a bad thing.” DCI Gene Hunt’s witticisms make Tyler’s politically correct 2006 ears ring. These are some classic Gene Hunt quotes:
- They reckon you’ve got concussion. I couldn’t give a tart’s furry cup if half your brains are falling out. Don’t ever waltz into my kingdom acting king of the jungle. Gene Hunt. Your DCI. And it’s 1973. Nearly dinner time. I’m having Hoops.
- Anything happens to this motor, I’ll come ’round your houses and stamp on all your toys. Got it? Good kids.
- Will someone please put some bog roll in the toilets! I’ve just had to wipe my arse on Francis Lee!
- You so much as belch out of line and I’ll have your scrotum on a barbed wire plate.
- Y’know, If I was as worried as you, I’d never fart for fear of shitting myself.
- Y’see, this is why birds and CID don’t mix. Give a bloke a gun, it’s a dream come true. Give a girl one, and she moans it doesn’t go with her dress! Now start behaving like a detective and show some balls.
- Don’t move! You’re surrounded by armed bastards!
- I don’t like this. Gene Hunt smashes doors down, he does not pick girlie locks!
- Your son, Mrs. Bathurst, is a cold-hearted killer, and if there’s a hell, he’s going there to be poked up the arse with sharp fiery sticks forever and ever. Amen!
- Blardy, blardy, history bloody blah. It doesn’t take a degree in applied bollocks to know what’s going on!
- Now. Yesterday’s shooting. The dealers are all so scared we’re more likely to get Helen Keller to talk. The Paki in a coma’s about as lively as Liberace’s dick when he’s looking at a naked woman, and all in all this investigation’s going at the speed of a spastic in a magnet factory.
- You great… soft… sissy… girlie… nancy… French… bender… Man United supporting poof!
6. Philip Glenister dressed as a squirrel
7. It’s really trippy
One minute, you’re in a cop drama loaded with 70s English references you don’t understand, like Camberwick Green, and the next, Sam’s psyche begins warping the world around him. I first tuned into this show mid-way through season two. I wasn’t so sure about it at first. I don’t like most cop dramas. I remember the moment when I suddenly fell in love with the show. In episode five, Sam suffers an overdose, and the crossing guard flips her sign around to portray what his subconscious is thinking: Oh shit!
8. Chicken in a basket
In S1 E5, Sam, Gene, and Annie (Liz White) go undercover in a pub. Gene gets drunk and Sam prematurely invents chicken in a basket. Episode 5 is the best episode of the series.
9. A glimpse into another world
Life on Mars is more vague and subtle than its sequel series Ashes to Ashes when it comes to good and evil. We suspect that Nelson (Tony Marshall), the barman, knows something more than he’s telling, and Frank Morgan (Ralph Brown) has an otherworldly quality to him, giving us a glimpse beyond the walls of this 1972 world that may or may not be a fabrication, but we’re still not sure who is on whose side, if there are sides at all.
10. If you don’t watch Life on Mars, you won’t understand Ashes to Ashes
and that would be a shame, because season 3 of Ashes to Ashes is some of the best TV I’ve seen, and it neatly ties up all the mysteries of Mars, creating a satisfying conclusion that is not completely un-guessable but still full of revelations.