Thursday, April 2, 2009

I Pay a Cable Bill for This?

One thing Richard Nixon had right was his statement that only Americans can humiliate the United States. Several years ago, the writers of a popular BBC program were faced with a dilemma. Although they had planned out a long-running series centered around a mystery, their star was leaving the show after two seasons. The star was so central to the mystery that he appeared in every shot, every scene. They would have to wrap things up prematurely.

The series was Life on Mars, in which a cop from contemporary Manchester is hit by a car and wakes up a cop in Manchester in 1973. Was he dead? In a coma? A time traveler? Insane? Whatever direction the show's creators initially envisioned, they found themselves bound to quickly wrap things up. So here's what they came up with: the hero, Sam Tyler, was in fact in a coma, 1973 some netherworld between life and death but a world that felt quite real. The coma was caused by a brain tumor that the car accident shook loose, or something. Contemporary Sam Tyler undergoes surgery and awakens, restored to his real life. But he finds himself alienated, unable to feel, unable to fit in. He realizes that he was happier in the dream world of 1973. So he jumps off a roof in order to return to that world. The seconds before the real Sam's death become years lived in his ideal world of the past.

Someone had the great idea to remake the series in America. American Sam is hit by a car and wakes up in 1973 New York. Same situation, same characters. But American Life on Mars never caught on, and the show was canceled. However, the writers were allowed to finish the series, bring everything to a close. Like their UK counterparts they had to do this quickly, and had to find some way of ending things despite whatever long-term plotting they had envisioned.

What do they do? They decide to take the title of the show literally. Sam Tyler is in fact an astronaut, lying in suspended animation on his way to Mars in the year 2035. For whatever reason he asked that the dream he be given for his two-year sleep be that he is a cop in 2009. The spaceship hit a meteor shower, it turns out, causing a computer glitch that made him dream that his 2009 dream self had been sent back to 1973. He awakens, we discover that all the 1973 characters are his coworkers on the voyage, and they land on Mars. There was no mystery. End of story.

WTF? Our teeth may be better, our most disgusting food may be much less disgusting than their most disgusting food, but clearly the British are much better at providing sensible narrative closure. The BBC ordered a sequel to LoM, and the only good that comes out of the American ending to the series is the fact that it renders the possibility of a US sequel moot.


Carrie said...

el--longtime lurker, first time commenter. i am so with you on this. john and i were disgusted with the stupid ending that made no narrative sense. they should have ended it with him slamming down the phone, refusing the third task. michael imperioli's last line should have been, "I gotta take a leak." much more character-appropriate. and harvey keitel as his dad? puhleeze! what dreadful focus group is responsible for that???

LVCI said...

Ah them British. "All In The Family" was based on a British TV series as well.

Speaking of remakes... "The 3 Stooges". I DON'T THNK SO! Are they nutz!

"MGM and the Farrelly brothers are finally slapping together their high-profile cast for "The Three Stooges,". Sean Penn is set to play Larry, and Jim Carrey is in negotiations to play Curly. Benicio Del Toro is a rumored possibility for their taciturn leader, Moe."

For the Story: Click On My Name

tunsie said...

I pay 80 cable bills a month.i watch 60 minutes.and a couple of basketball games.tunsie