ABC’s new fall series based on the BBC time-traveling police drama Life on Mars debuts October 9. If it can stand comparison with the original, it will be an extraordinary accomplishment indeed.
It seems rather a fool’s errand for ABC, the least serious of the broadcast TV networks, to attempt a remake of the superb BBC television series Life on Mars, but that’s precisely what they’re doing. The Imdb.com item on the forthcoming fall series concisely summarizes the problems with the production, but the real difficulty is in imagining the American screenwriters matching the brilliance of the dialogue, the seriousness of the situations, and the historical insights that were such strengths in the BBC version.
It’s also difficult imagining anyone recreating the combination of toughness, dedication, menace, crassness, cruelty, vulgarity, moral strength, rule-bending, and bizarre decency of Philip Glenister’s characterization of DI Gene Hunt. It’s simply a unique performance, and though the producers of the U.S. series have brought on the highly talented Harvey Keitel for the role, it is extremely implausible to expect that the character will be anything but greatly diminished.
Keitel may make the American version, Lt. Gene Hunt, into an interesting character, but he cannot convey the sheer force of will that Glenister portrayed. And without a strong force of nature in Gene Hunt to play off of, the obstacles confronting the protagonist, Detective Sam Tyler, will certainly be less formidable.
Also in the cast are Gretchen Mol and Lisa Bonet, both of whom are likeable and will help make the show more interesting than it might otherwise be. Nonetheless, what will be most interesting to see is whether the ABC series can capture any of the magic of the BBC original, and what will be most mysterious will be to try to figure out why the network and the show’s producers thought this was a good idea for a remake.