Out of orbit

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

In ABC's remake of the BBC hit Life on Mars, modern-day detective Sam Tyler (Jason O'Mara) gets hit by a car and wakes up in 1973. Bizarrely, he discovers that the 1973 version of his police department is expecting him, though they think he transferred in from upstate, not the future.

Tyler is confused, but he figures if he can find out why he's been transported to the past (or knocked into a coma, or whatever), maybe he can find his way back to the future. In the meantime, he longs for his present-day girlfriend (Lisa Bonet), marvels at the less-than-straight-laced methods used by his coworkers and learns to solve crimes without modern conveniences like instant forensics.

O'Mara plays Tyler as the same sort of exasperated, self-righteous hero Matthew Fox plays on Lost, with even less nuance. But if this role is too good for O'Mara, many of the actors here are too good for this show.

Harvey Keitel is a caricature of himself as the grizzled lieutenant who butts heads with Tyler. As for Michael Imperioli's mustachioed wisecracker -- well, let's just say it's not exactly Christopher from The Sopranos.

The show could yet be saved, but for now, Life on Mars seems confused. Some enjoyably strange sci-fi sequences keep it from becoming just another cop show, but peppy background music and overdone slapstick comedy make sure Mars lacks gravity.

"Life on Mars"