Life on Mars

I’ve been watching Life on Mars. The setup is: Manchester police inspector is in the middle of a very tense investigation and turbulent personal situation, when he’s hit by a car. He wakes up, apparently in the same spot, but in 1973. As far as he can tell, he’s really in the past—but from time to time, he also hears sounds that suggest that it’s all his imagination, and he’s really in a coma in a hospital bed in 2006.

He discovers he’s a police officer in 1973 also, and tries to make the best of the situation. The series reconstructs the Britain of 1973 in pretty exacting detail, and plays off the modern sensibility and policing techniques of the protagonist against the Sweeney-style approach. Manchester in the 70s was notorious for police corruption, and so bribery and fit-ups are standard operating procedure for some of his colleagues. The plots are twisty enough that I can’t predict the outcome, there’s a dose of humor now and again, and the series provokes thought about how much has changed in just 30-odd years. It’s the best TV show I’ve seen in years; I’d put it on a par with the new Dr Who. Thank goodness for the BBC.

BBC America will apparently be showing it later this year, so US readers should look out for it. Or, you could watch the inevitable shitty US network TV remake.