Thursday, July 17, 2008

Impaired Vision

I wasn’t that enamoured with Life on Mars when it was smeared onto the television schedule a few years back. Watching the pilot for the US version that found it’s way onto the steam-driven interweb a month or so ago, I got about twenty minutes in and, quite frankly, couldn’t be bothered to watch any more.

After pilots are thrown to the focus groups, the odd nip or tuck takes place. Last year, for instance, Bionic Woman required reshoots when it was obviously decided making Jamie Sommers’ younger sister deaf wasn’t such a sweet idea. This year is obviously no different.

If changes are required, at best only the odd tweak here and there is needed, which appears to be the case with J.J. Abrams’ new science fiction thriller Fringe. Worst case is a complete makeover, which is right where Life on Mars has now found itself.

With David E. Kelley off the project, new producers Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec are putting their stamp on the project by rewriting, recasting and reshooting. As I mentioned a little while back I can’t quite see the point of the Americanization of Life on Mars. The original always seemed like it was concocted so the creators could pretend they were making The Sweeney. What’s the American motivation?

That might be why, at ABC's Television Critics Association press tour, Appelbaum told the assembled hacks that they’ve asked permission to change the original mythology of the series. Maybe they’ve got some better ideas. Hiring Michael Imperioli, late of The Sopranos, seems like a good plan. Keeping Jason O'Mara to play Sam Tyler while ditching the rest of the original cast seems like a bad plan.

Obviously the mighty ABC PR machine is gearing up to put a spin on the changes. Hopefully they’ll do a better job than Appelbaum whose explanation for changing the setting from Los Angeles to New York amounted to:

“When you think of the early '70s cop genre, you think of New York.”

...Really? Thinking of the cop shows that washed up on these shores in the 1970s, they all seemed to be set on the West Coast. I’ve said that they should have gone for The Streets of San Francisco with Colm Meaney channelling Karl Malden to perfect his Gene Hunt. Ironside was also set in San Francisco. Police Woman was set in Los Angeles as was Starsky & Hutch and Delvecchio, which came later on.

The only other US cop show from the early 1970s I can think of is Hawaii Five-O, which is even further west. So what the fuck is that idjit talking about? Help me out here... When you think of the early '70s cop genre, you think of New York? No you cocking well don’t.

Oh, hang on a sec, there was Kojak. Which makes a grand total of one. So what else?


At 9:23 pm, Blogger Wyndham said...

Serpico. Er, Starsky and Hutch - was that NY?

He's got a point though, because when I think of 70s cops I think of Serpico and, er...

David Milch, of course, has ditched the mighty John From Cincinatti to make a 70s NY copy show. Must be something in the water.

At 11:02 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

I thought Starsky & Hutch was set in Los Angeles but it was actually Bay City – though it was obviously filmed in LA.

Last of the Ninth, David Milch and Bill Clark’s new drama for HBO, takes place in New York, in 1972, for a reason. About a veteran New York city cop who takes a young detective under his wing, that year is significant because it was when Clark, a twenty-five year veteran of The Job before becoming technical consultant on NYPD Blue, earned his gold detective shield. The drama also deals with deals with rampant corruption in the NYPD, and 1972 was also the year the Knapp Commission investigated allegations of systemic police corruption.

That makes it far more relevant than anything in Life on Mars. And I thought John From Cincinatti was great.

It was only your mention of Serpico that I realized Appelbaum wasn’t just referring to television. I obviously assumed that because he’s a TV writer/producer. Broaden it out and yes, there’s Serpico and The French Connection and The Seven-Ups and... er...

At 2:45 am, Blogger Jaded and Cynical said...

The only drama on the BBC that I felt compelled to watch this year was Mad Men.

Its best moments were brilliant.

The final episode, in particular, featured a beautifully constructed riff on the meaning and significance of nostalgia.

I wonder, though, when a trend becomes that overt whether it's close to running its course.

As Carrie Bradshaw might put it, is nostalgia starting to get old?

(On a side note, those stubbornly clinging to the notion that British TV is world class, should reflect on the fact that while US cable shows can recreate, in mesmerising detail, Madison Avenue of 1960, Coronation Street still can't make a modern corner shop look real.)


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