I don't know how your Thursday went, but it couldn't have been as bad as what Sam Tyler experienced. Don't believe me? Okay -- at any point during the day were you hit by a car that either caused you to hurtle past the bounds of time and space back into 1973, or put you in a coma, or some combination of the two? No? Well, all right then.
So here's the scoop: Sam Tyler is a New York City detective and he and his lady friend Maya are hot on the trail a serial killer. (No, this isn't part of some weird Take Your Girlfriend to Work program; she's a detective, too.) Well, the serial killer skates on some flimsy, ultimately bogus alibi, and when Maya tries tracking him, she disappears. Sam drives off to find her, with the strains of David Bowie blasting on his stereo system -- one guess as to what the title of the song is, and, no, "Fame '90" is not an acceptable answer. Anyway, he arrives at the scene, gets hit by the aforementioned car, and the next thing you know, he's waking up dressed in the latest from Macy's Starsky & Hutch collection.
And, oh, the wacky differences between 1973 and 2008. They listen to 8-track tapes, and we listen to iPods! They have rotary telephones, and we have mobile devices! They callously ignore a person's Constitutional rights by coercing confessions and revelations through brutality and bullying, and we... have a lot in common with 1973, actually.
Of course, all this could just be in Sam's head -- he occasionally hears voices on the TV or over the radio referring specifically to him and his vegetative state, and they won't acknowledge him, no matter how loudly he shouts back or pleads with them to help him get home. You can imagine how much this endears him to his new 1973-era colleagues on the force.
Anyhow, 1973 or mind-altering coma, Sam's still a cop, and he's called on to investigate a woman-abducting creep who's committing crimes in a mighty similar way to our 2008 perp. Turns out, our Watergate-era criminal is the next-door neighbor of the little kid who grows up to be the Serial Killer of the Aughties, so Sam briefly mulls the possibility of filling the little tyke full of lead, so that he can save the future and quite possibly his girlfriend. But just as he's fiddling with the gun, Maya's voice comes over the AM dial in his car to tell him that she's okay. So everything's all right, with the possible exception of Sam still being stuck in 1973.
Of course, if you had just watched the British version, you would have already known all that. So what are you doing reading this again?
So let's get something out of the way first -- I never watched the original version of this show. This wasn't a conscious decision, born out of spite or malice or snobbery or xenophobia or laziness -- it's largely because I only recently learned that the British even had television. I mean, honestly, I thought they still passed their time forking over a haypenny to see plays or bear-baiting or mourning their lost empire or something. Which is my way of saying, if you're looking for a line-by-line breakdown of the differences and similarities between this edition of Life on Mars and its source material, I'm afraid that's a service I'll be unable to provide. All's I can offer is a recap of the proceedings, my occasional commentary on whether this show works on its own terms, a minimum of tedious digressions, and the occasional dick joke. Fair enough? Good.
Oh, one other thing -- the shows I recap around here tend not to last more than 10 episodes at most so... uh... let's not get too attached to each other just yet, all right?
We open on New York City, which, at last check, is not located anywhere in the British Empire. A jeep, with police sirens flashing is making its way through the streets of Brooklyn, and the occupants of the jeep are arguing. Given that one of those occupants is Lisa Bonet, it might be reasonable to assume that they are arguing over whether that Cosby Show spinoff was a good career move, but no -- it's Sam Tyler (Jason O'Mara) and Maya Daniels (the aforementioned ex-Cosby kid) who are inside the jeep arguing. About some case they're investigating? Nah -- they're partners in more than just crime, apparently, and they're arguing over his commitment phobia. (She says he was making noise about wanting to meet her folks; he counters that he was probably drunk when he said such a thing.) Your argument has grown tiresome -- get to the crime-solving, Bickersons!
Ask and ye shall receive: the jeep and a bunch of other squad cars pull up in front of a down-at-heels Brooklyn apartment complex, where they are greeted by Clark Peters, who played Freamon on The Wire. Confidential to any Life on Mars producers who may be reading this: If you can contrive a way where Clark Peters travels back in time with Jason O'Mara, I promise to abuse the power of my recapping post to relentlessly pimp your show until every man, woman, and child in America is watching it or at least telling the Nielsen people that they are. Deal? While I'm busy using my powers for good, the Detective Formerly Known as Freamon is bringing Sam and Maya up to speed: There's a suspected serial killer holed up in the apartment building, and that cadre of armor-clad police officers are there to bring him to justice.