Life on Mars took me by surprise, in more ways than one. For those unfamiliar with the plot, a police officer named Sam Tyler (black leather jacket) is investigating a string of murders in 2006. The case takes a turn for the worse and his own girlfriend becomes a victim. Sam goes for a ride to blow off steam, wrecks his car, and is knocked unconscious. When he wakes up, he finds himself in 1973 instead of 2006. He is working for the same police department but as one of the rank and file under a loud-mouthed sexist chief. Half the methods he was trained to use for solving crimes haven't been invented yet, and his 21st-century sense of ethics clashes with the brashness of his fellow officers. To make matters worse, he keeps hearing voices that lead him to believe he may be in a coma and that his 1973 world is really a dream.
This British series is a joy to watch. The action reminds me of enjoying Starsky and Hutch as a kid. The quality of the writing, however, is closer to The Sopranos. I am interested in every case Sam works on instead of just waiting to see the "fish out of water" bits. I want to see him go back home but I also care about the people he is befriending in 1973.
I've read that some viewers have been pointing out anachronisms, but the show is compelling enough that I never noticed things like satellite dishes that accidentally made it into the shot. My only problem, which is not the fault of the creators, is that I have trouble understanding some of the dialogue. I cut my BBC teeth on "Eastenders" and have watched a lot of British TV over the years, so I thought that my ear was well tuned to the accent and the slang. Obviously I was wrong because my rewind button has gotten a good workout with each episode!
BBC aired Series 1 of Life on Mars in January of this year, but it just started running here in the US on BBC America. There are only eight episodes in the series and four have aired so far. If you would like to catch up, there is a marathon of the first four episodes running 20 Aug 06 on BBC America.