Admittedly, this TV Addict is a little late to the LIFE ON MARS party. But following a weekend of back-to-back-to-back episodes (or, as I like to call it, my mini MARSathon) let me just saythat if you’re not watching this time-trippin’ cop show, you’re missing out on the best new show of the season. (Sorry, J.J. Abrams… )
Based on the popular British series of the same name, MARS revolves around Detective Sam Tyler (the underappreciated Jason O’Mara) who is plowed down by a car and wakes up in a New York City where the World Trade Center is still standing, misogony is a way of life and fighting crime is a down and dirty business. This ain’t your mama’s New York City. Then again, maybe it is… because Detective Tyler has somehow been thrown back in time to 1973!
With nothing better to do while he waits for answers as to how and why he’s living in an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, Tyler solves crimes with his new co-workers of the (fictional) 125th Street Precinct. These include his new partner, Ray Carling (played by THE SOPRANOS’ Michael Imperioli) and their boss, Lt. Gene Hunt (Harvey Keitel, who plays the hell out of the role by chowing down on every piece of period scenery in sight, and I mean that in a good way). Then there’s Annie “No Nuts” Norris (Gretchen Mol), the precinct’s answer to MAD MEN’s Peggy, who proves that while it was a blast to be a gun-toting, booze-swilling, rule-bending male cop in 1973, the only glass ceiling being talked about where women were concerned was the one she might be asked to scrub (if only so the guys could look up her dress while she did it).
This is a wildly-entertaining cast with enough talent to make next year’s Emmy nominations a whole lot more interesting. Better still, they’re given scripts that are briskly paced, well-balanced between comedy and drama, and filled with just enough intriguing clues as to how our hero wound up doing the time warp to keep us coming back for more without feeling ripped-off when we don’t get answers. In fact, if giving Detective Tyler answers means bringing the series to a close, we’re happy to keep right on wondering what the heck is really going on.