Review: Life on Mars Redux

I know I just talked about Life on Mars last week, but I’m revisiting it for two reasons. One: the season finale was just on the other night. Two: my pal West (who has an excellent, thought-provoking blog) commented on my last LoM post and sparked some thoughts I’d like to share.

I’d said something about not caring if the main character, Sam, ever got home and West wondered “if not caring if ol’ boy ever gets home ever impedes the audience’s emotional connection to the main character.”

It’s a good question and it clued me in that in talking up what the show’s about, I hadn’t said enough about its characters. My reply, reposted here for your convenience, was this:

“You know how in those old cop shows they always had the maverick detective bend the rules because it was the only way to catch the bad guy? And it always pissed off the Captain or whoever, right? Well, in Life on Mars it’s the Captain (Gene) who’s learned that you have to bend or break rules in order to be effective. He’s a good man, but he teeters on the edge of being corrupt because it’s the only way he can see how to do his job.

“Enter Sam, who’s used to doing things by the book (as most modern cop-procedural show characters are). Not only does he have new investigative techniques, but he’s he’s also got an uncompromising sense of morality about how to do the job (you don’t plant evidence, you don’t make deals with one bad guy in order to catch a ‘worse’ bad guy, etc.). It’s a reversal on the classic detective/Captain dynamic.

“Sam doesn’t come across as sanctimonious though. Gene is enough of a bastard (though a likeable one) that you’re right there with Sam whenever his jaw drops and his dander gets up over whatever Gene’s doing now.

“Sam genuinely cares about other people and his wanting to do things correctly is born from that. You care about him; you’re just glad that he’s making the most out of his situation and not just obsessing every week on trying to get home.

“At any rate, it’s the relationship between Sam and Gene — and watching them come to respect each other’s points of view — that makes the show. (And just so you don’t think it’s all testosterone: there’s also a possible love interest for Sam too.)”

The season finale — which was more focused on Sam’s trying to get home than your average episode — also drove home something that’s useful in answering West’s question. When Sam is concerned about getting home, the audience becomes concerned with it too. Fortunately, that’s not all the time or the show would get tired. When Sam seems to be acclimating to his surroundings and is just focused on solving a case or his relationships with his peers, we’re focused on that too instead of wondering how the series will eventually wrap up. In other words, Sam engages us so much that we’re happy following him around; doing whatever it is he’s doing.

Can’t wait for next season.


Reviews: Comics

Because Rod demanded it!

More reviews of genre comics:

Adventure Comics
Model Operandi #1
The Miscellaneous Adventures of Stykman #2
X Isle #2
Force 51 #1
Rush City #2
The Lone Ranger #1
Agents of Atlas #1-2
Codename: Black Death #1

Mystery Comics
CSI: Dying in the Gutters #1
Fell #6
The Cross Bronx #1

Science Fiction Comics
Dusty Star #1

To See: Casino Royale

This is probably rare for people of my generation, but it was Ian Fleming’s novels that led me to the Bond movies; not the other way around. Because of that, my fondness for the literary Bond has always colored my opinions about the various movie versions. Like everyone else, Connery will always be my favorite, but I’m one of the few who actually prefers Timothy Dalton to either Pierce Brosnan or Roger Moore. Especially to Roger Moore, who dislikes For Your Eyes Only; the only one of his Bond movies to come anywhere close to capturing the tone of Fleming’s books.

My favorite Bond novel is the first one, Casino Royale. The reason I love it is its last sentence, so I won’t blow that for anyone who hasn’t read it, but I’m thrilled that we’re finally getting a real adaptation of it (make sure you watch the new trailer in the link) after two crappy ones. And I’m thrilled that the film-makers are giving Bond his edge back with Daniel Craig. It’s going to be a long wait until November 17th.

To Read: The Thirteenth Tale

While I don’t necessarily like every gothic romance novel, I love the trappings that come with them: beatiful heroines, na├»ve governesses, old manor houses with abandoned wings and spooky grounds, creepy little girls, family secrets, and of course ghosts. Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale promises to incorporate all of those things in a story about a couple of writers. Sign me up.

News: 30 Days of Night Updates

A lot of 30 Days of Night progress in the last couple of weeks. Producer Robert Tapert has apparently found the perfect spot to shoot Barrow, Alaska. That’s a shot of it there accompanying this post. I can already see the vampires making their way towards town across that snowfield.

Stunt coordinators are hard at work choreographing the vampire attack.

Josh Hartnett is starting to talk about the movie and is alienating fans by downplaying the horror elements. He also confirms that he’s already in New Zealand working on the film.

And finally, Danny Huston (The Constant Gardener) has signed on to play “the leader” of the vampires. Don’t know if that means he’s playing Vincent or Marlowe though.

News: Sarah Connah?

So, there’s talk about a Terminator TV-show called The Sarah Conner Chronicles. Executive Producer Josh Friedman promises a “pretty f*ing cool” show that balances close-ended stories with a longer, series-long metastory a la The X-Files. So far, so good.

Friedman’s concerned that fans won’t give the show a try if James Cameron’s not involved, but I’m not sure that’s what he needs to be worried about. If you’ve got a show with the name “Sarah Conner” in it, you’d better have Linda Hamilton playing her or a damn good replacement. (Top of my head, I’d buy Kate Beckinsale in the role.)