OK, How Much Does Gretchen Mol Suck on Life On Mars?

Liz White, Annie on the original UK version of Life On Mars, doesn’t get enough credit for her contribution to that show. After all, she probably had the toughest part to play as Sam Tyler’s love interest, sparring partner, and sole confidante. She was the warm Earth mother, a feminist silenced by the chauvinism of her male co-workers, a dedicated team player, and a skilled, tough cop. White played these contradictions effortlessly because she’s a real actress.

Ever wonder why, despite the efforts of Vanity Fair to hype her, Gretchen Mol (above) never became a star? Last night was Exhibit A. Maybe the producers of the American Life on Mars went for empty eye candy, convinced that U.S. audiences couldn’t handle a real actress in the role. But Mol’s a cipher. Weaker than ice water. The kind of actress you have to lean into the screen to hear speak even when the volume is blasting. She’s a big example of what’s wrong with the remake.


John Simm and Liz White

The actors are far inferior to their British counterparts. As f**kable as Jason O’Mara is, he doesn’t come close to the intelligence, soul, and sensitivity John Simm brought to Sam Tyler. (When you’re in every scene of a show, and you spend half the time screaming like a crazy person, you’d better have an interesting internal life that you can communicate to the audience. O’Mara is all huff and puff.) Harvey Keitel is menacing, yes, but the role of Gene Hunt – king of the jungle – simply requires someone physically imposing. Like Philip Glenister. Remember the boyish charm Marshall Lancaster immediately brought to the character of Chris Skelton? Now think back to last night’s show: do you even remember the face of the actor who played Chris? (His name is Jonathan Murphy).

Everything in last night’s premiere felt so slapdash. The 2008 story was rushed through, causing the shift to 1973 to lose its impact. The 1973 reveal, so grand and emotional in the original with that wonderful 360-degree pan, fell flat. (The appearance of the Twin Towers was an anti-climax.)

OK, even though the show is almost a shot-by-shot, word-for-word copy of the UK version, we know certain things had to be cut due to the shortened U.S. clock. But, unfortunately, the depth and character of the original are what have been left on the cutting room floor.

The show did win its time slot over Eleventh Hour and ER, which I suppose is an encouraging sign. Let’s see if there’s any time to right this ship. I’m not entirely hopeful.

In other news:

  • The Queen’s Sister‘s Lucy Cohu and Skins actor Peter Capaldi have been cast in the new season of Torchwood. (SyFyPortal)
  • Actress Velile Tshabalala, who plays the Doctor’s assistant in the Doctor Who Christmas Special, talks about her character Rosita: “I have to be very careful what I can say and can’t say about it all. You have to bear with me! But she is an East Londoner, very Cockney… The Doctor is faced with another Doctor. Rosita is the assistant to the other Doctor but as the episode goes on she starts helping the Doctor we know.”(io9)
  • Take an inside look at the sound effects studios for Doctor Who and Torchwood.
  • Simon Pegg has a seven-figure deal to write three non-fiction books: a memoir, a “humorous” book, and a “highly illustrated, lavishly-produced title.”(BBC)
  • Sharon Osbourne scores a hat trick – plastic surgery, vaseline-smeared lens, and liberal airbrushing – for her Rock of Love: Charm School ads.(Daily Mail)
  • Daniel Radcliffe looked “sweaty and startled” after a performance of Equus. (I’d perspire, too, if I were wearing a scarf, hat, and leather jacket during a New York City Indian summer.) He also had to contend with “a barrage of hysterical fans who fought to get his autograph. At one point the pushing and shoving got so extreme, that Radcliffe, who has spent eight years playing Harry Potter, threatened to leave immediately unless the crowd calmed down.”(Daily Mail)
  • Is that Rhys Ifans or Dumb Donald from Fat Albert?(Daily Mail)
  • Jade Goody was “comforted” by fellow patient Wendy Richard at her first chemotherapy treatment. Can I be “comforted” by Jade Goody’s hot personal trainer?(Daily Mail)
  • The dying Wendy Richard is marrying her longtime companion, John Burns.(The Times)
  • The Times‘ Kevin Maher calls a scene featuring Michael Fassbender (Hex) and Liam Cunningham in the Bobby Sands biopic Hunger “one of cinema’s greatest-ever scenes.” “The scene in the film, to be screened at The Times BFI London Film Festival, is set in the Maze prison meeting room, in 1981, just hours before the 66-day fast that would ultimately kill Sands (Fassbender wastes away on camera, harrowingly, for the final third of the movie), but it bristles with a modern intensity that speaks of contemporary geopolitics and a simple need for human understanding. Mostly, however, it is a masterclass in screen acting from two very different performers.” Maher interviews both Fassbender and Cunningham about the scene.
  • Paul McCartney talks to The Daily Telegraph‘s Neil McCormick about his new album, Electric Arguments. McCartney took an unusual approach to this project, improvising lyrics on the spot. “It was sort of a William Burroughs, cut-up approach,” he says. “I’d get out poetry books and just kind of scour them and find phrases, then stick them to a phrase from another book, so I wasn’t nicking somebody’s whole poem. And I’d go on like that until I had enough to sing. I still don’t know the lyrics myself.”
  • Fans are campaigning to get Adam Ant a spot at next year’s Glastonbury festival.(The Sun)
  • Ian McCulloch tries not to be an a-hole in his interview with The TimesPete Paphides. And fails. Still, the man’s a genius.
  • Paphides trashes the new Keane album.(The Times)
  • Boyzone frontman Ronan Keating “is a complex figure. He’s polite, but there is something of the politician about him. Still only 31, he has been a star since the age of 16 and those light blue eyes are intense. He’s sizing up what you can do for him.”(Daily Mail)
  • All right, Lily Allen. Keep hanging out with crazy people and watch that U.S. visa go bye-bye.(The Sun)

Kevin Wicks

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.

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