Third-episode verdict: Life on Mars (US)

The CarusometerA Carusometer rating of 2

Time (ho ho) for a third-episode verdict on the US version of Life on Mars. So far, we’ve had a combination of two remake scripts and an original script – on top of the original bland pilot.

The new first episode wasn’t bad at all and ironed out many of the problems of the pilot and episode two did enough jiggering around with the UK script and added enough new elements to the overall set-up that the show started to feel increasingly different – even if it was word-for-word and shot-for-shot the same at times.

Episode three, the first original episode, decided to venture into the treatment of gay men in the early 70s. Although pretty clumsy in places, with none of the regulars revealing any truly horrifying prejudices and Gene Hunt delivering an awesomly bad speech at one point on the subject, it did allow the producers to deliver an episode that focused on truly American concerns, making it a show in its own right, rather than simply a relocation.

Jason O’Mara, previously one of the weak links in the show’s set-up, is proving a reasonable lead, since he’s veering more towards a comedy portrayal of Sam Tyler than John Simm did, something he actually seems quite good at. Oddly, the weakest link is Harvey Keitel who veers between non-comitted, frail and spaced out with no apparent reason. He’s starting to make me wonder whether David Caruso could do a better job, which is something that should never happen.

On balance, it feels like a weaker version of the UK Life on Mars that’s still trying to find its feet. It’s still pretty good and there are aspects of it that are better than the UK’s version, such as Gretchen Mol’s more interesting and brighter Annie. But as of yet, it still hasn’t got the magic of the original.

Could limp on for at least another season, but could go on for a whole lot longer if it finally finds its mojo.

Carusometer rating
Two or partial Caruso


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.