Tonight is the much-anticipated premiere of ABC’s remake of Life On Mars, the critically-acclaimed British series which aired right here on BBC AMERICA. The new U.S. series, which was initially to be produced by David E. Kelley, had been plagued by re-shoots and cast turnover. The supporting ensemble that the show ended up with – Harvey Keitel, Michael Imperioli, Gretchen Mol, and Lisa Bonet – is impressive, but the show’s main star, Irish actor Jason O’Mara, was said to have been “miscast” by people who’d seen the pilot. Could ABC work out the series’ kinks? Well if the reviewers are right, they’ve more than succeeded.
The New York Times‘ Alessandra Stanley calls Life On Mars “strange and exhilarating,” comparing it to Mad Men and adding that it “exhumes a raunchier, dirtier, more dangerous New York City, the one depicted in Serpico,Mean Streets, and, most recently, American Gangster. And it’s the show’s back-to-the-future feel, underscored by Harvey Keitel as a tyrannical police lieutenant and Michael Imperioli as a shaggy-haired, smart-mouthed detective, that lifts it above the ordinary and adds Scorsesian pizazz.”
The San Francisco Chronicle‘s Tim Goodman calls the remake “surprisingly great, its pilot living up to the lofty expectations of the original…Against great odds, Life on Mars is a reason to set your DVR on Thursday nights beyond NBC’s comedy lineup.”
Newsday‘s Verne Gay grades it an “A,” writing, “Mars proves – as The Office did – that Yanks know how to commit TV larceny. Tonight’s pilot – ‘Out Here in the Fields’ – is gorgeous, intelligent, sly and often funny. The producers (Alias alums Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec) have created a Dickensian (with a nod to L. Frank Baum) universe, draped in shadows, pastels and mystery, while aurally wrapped in chestnuts from The Sweet, Five Man Electrical Band, and the Ramones. This new series has enormous promise.”
USA Today‘s Robert Bianco gives it three out of four stars and says “the American version – a second try, after an original pilot was scrapped – makes mostly wise decisions, starting with trusting the show to O’Mara. He’s off to an excellent start, particularly in grounding the story by keeping his reactions rooted in reality.” But he warns, “the network’s replacements for David Kelley – who did the first version – are the producers of October Road, a show so badly written, it made you wish you were time traveling. True, this time, they copied well. Now let’s see what they can create.”
The Newark Star-Ledger‘s Alan Sepinwall calls the show “surprisingly good (or, at least, surprisingly not bad)” and praises the interaction between stars Jason O’Mara (Sam Tyler) and Harvey Keitel (Gene Hunt). But he also has a concern: “the pilot episode twice dwells on the image of the World Trade Center (which had only finished construction in 1973), and while that works as quick shorthand for where Sam is, the towers threaten to overwhelm much of the action. Making them a part of the storyline — Sam tries to prevent 9/11 from 28 years in the past — would be an awkward misstep, and yet just showing them without comment makes the rest of the show seem less relevant than it probably wants to be.”
The Boston Globe‘s Matthew Gilbert retorts, “I knew I liked Life on Mars when New York’s World Trade Center appeared and I didn’t feel like I was supposed to cry…the current executive producers…have pulled together a vivid cast and evoked the ideal tone – not comedy, not psychodrama, not sci fi, but an intriguingly evasive blend of them all.
The Los Angeles Times‘ Robert Lloyd says, “I’m not wholly convinced by the American Life on Mars. Some of the new dialogue is overripe (‘You’re here to make me curse the day my father’s sperm asked my mama’s egg if it could have this dance’), and there’s a tendency to explain the obvious. And, while I am happy to see Keitel grace TV with his presence, I’m not yet sure he’s big enough, physically, for this part. I might be wrong about that. And I’ll be following with interest to see where it all goes. ”
Meet an uncanny Gordon Ramsay lookalike. (Daily Mail)
Oscar winner Jamie Foxx and Anglo fave Gerard Butler will co-star in Frank Darabont‘s Law Abiding Citizien, which, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “follows a successful assistant D.A. (Butler) who finds himself at the center of a vigilante plot hatched by a traumatized victim of the legal system (Foxx).”
Russell Brand said he’d “be all over Helen Mirren” when they film their movie, The Tempest, together. Seems the feeling is mutual: “I heard he fancies me. I fancy Russell too. I mean, who can resist a man that looks so good in tight trousers? He’s absolutely lovely.”(Mirror)
League of Gentleman funnymen Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have co-created the new “dark character comedy” Psychoville, which will co-star Dawn French, Emmy winner Eileen Atkins, and Christopher Biggins.(The Stage)
Lily Allen has finally secured a U.S. visa and looks forward to promoting her new album in the States next year. That leaves almost three months for her to do something spectacularly stupid and f*** it all up.(Mirror)
The Guardian‘s John Harris responds to a new book claiming The Beatles were “a carefully formulated plan to bleed the pockets of the nation’s teenage girls via cutesy pop songs, moptop hairdos, and regular TV appearances.” He says that they were “musicians, not capitalists.” Maybe it was possible that they were both?
Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself—he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri—he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.