Life on Mars is a stunningly original series from the BBC. Part Sci-Fi.. but predominantly Cop Show.
Sam Tyler (played in the UK by the amazingly talented John Simm (and yes, bluerose I can hear you squee)) is a homicide detective. While solving a huge case he is hit by a car. The accident looks near fatal. When he awakes on the road where he was hit he is completely unharmed... except for one minor issue. It is now 1973. He is still very much Detective Sam Tyler with all of his memories solidly in tact. He's just 35 years in the past. (35? Cripes)... He is on record as a transfer to the department he's in. Now he's a cop with modern training reliving the police mentality of 30+ years ago. Occasionally, Sam's 'real world' "reaches out" to him in bizarre ways making you wonder the all important question, "What is actually real?"
The show and acting were so amazing that the ratings went through the roof, Simm was tapped to play a fairly big role on Doctor Who (another sigh from bluerose among others) and the show has been picked up for reworking for American audiences.
Which leads to the real purpose of this post. "Good Idea? Bad Idea?"
I will say now that reworking the show for American audiences is an amazingly Good idea.
Now, I am a BritShow purist and will watch shows on BBC, BBC America, YouTube, etc. Some shows work.. some don't. And many of the current Brit fans are reeling from the US abortions that were, "Coupling, Men Behaving Badly, and Red Dwarf." Yes... I've seen both Red Dwarf American Pilots. Yes... I attended the US taping of the "Giggle Loop" episode of Coupling. So I know of what I speak.
But, for every bad import there are the good ones. "The Office" and "Weakest Link" are very strong recent imports. On top of that are the classic ones that people don't realize aren't American at all. "All in the Family", "Sanford and Son" and "Three's Company". In the case of those, you're dealing with extreme rewrites.
So why did Red Dwarf and Coupling fail? In both cases.. the humour of the series was very British in nature. Thus is was more risque than American audiences are used to. Further it had a flavour (note the spelling) that doesn't necessarily translate. For Red Dwarf fans.. one has to realize that Rimmer is a stock British personality. The closest we get to that in the states is "Frank Burns" (who frankly isn't funny). In the case of Coupling the comedy was so complex and interdependent that by taking off pieces, it fell apart.
So with comedy you either have to stay 100% faithful or you have to overhaul.
So... Why is "Life on Mars" a good idea. The allure of this show isn't patently British. The plot isn't extraordinarily new. In case you think it's a new concept I strongly suggest reading, "An Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" So.. will the show be the same or different. Personally, I hope the show is a bit different. As much as I am a BritShow traditionalist there are certain issues at play.
First, the average American television watcher doesn't know about the original or if they do... they haven't seen it. As much as we may love British television. American productions companies are not producing for the small percentage of BritPurists. For those of us in that group there is Sci-Fi, BBCAmerica, and PBS. So.. the show needs to appeal to the general mass of America. Some may say that this will 'ruin' the show. Truthfully, one needs to let go of a show, an actor, etc as easily as one should accept a new cast for a Shakepeare reworking. It's a different entity based on a good strong foundation.
Second, the show really needs to be redone for the US audiences based on culture. In the 1970s detailed cultural exchange between Brittain and the US was for the rich and well travelled. Television shows RARELY crossed the pond. And frankly, post vietnam US in the early 1970s was not the same as it was in the UK. Police were similar, but different. In the US television mindset police fell into two and only two types: Barney Miller and Starsky&Hutch. That's the TV that the over 30 crowd grew up on huddled over their secret Black and White TV's as kids behind their parents backs at night. As a result, the show needs to recapture the 70's of the television audience.
I think Life on Mars has a great deal of potential. They need to remain true to the underlying mystery of where reality lies and let the history and characters take the show as they may. The basic plot is proven.
Such is my 47 cents. (Well, it's the value of what you can buy today for what you could have spent 2 cents on in 73)