back to article Harvey Keitel to experience Life on Mars

Here's some good news for those of you who like a good British TV series with fewer British people in it and preferably set in the US of A: American viewers will later this week get to enjoy Life on Mars relocated to New York and with Harvey Keitel as "irascible" Lieutenant Gene Hunt. The blurb explains: Where were you in …


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  1. Ian K

    Character names 101

    > "At home in Sam's apartment building in the East Village, there's Windy, a free-spirited, post-hippie chick"

    Really "Windy" rather than "Wendy"? Sounds like a load of guff to me.

  2. Ron Eve
    IT Angle

    Move along, nothing to see here

    I've tried really hard and I can't think of one American adaptation of a 'classic' British series or film that has come anywhere close to the original.

    Having said that, apparently the US version of The Office isn't bad (I've not seen it). I mean, Tom Hanks in the Alec Guiness role in The Ladykillers. What were the Cohen Bros thinking?

    I hope it's a success though, I'd hate to be down on Harvey Keitel. Gary Oldman would've been good for that part, surely?


  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Might not be too bad...

    ...there were some interesting things going on to give it a backdrop at least.

  4. M

    The Office (US)

    I am a massive fan of the UK series of the Office and it was with great trepidation that I started to watch the US version. It was awful for the first few episodes as they stuck too close to the UK style, but now it is probably my favourite tv show running at the moment.

  5. Bumhug

    It could of been a lot worse

    Gene Hunt was played by Colm Meany in the pilot, luckily they saw sense

  6. Neil

    Not their first try

    Of course this isn't their first attempt. A few months ago, I got my hands on early studio pilot (through Bittorrent) that featured Colm Meaney as Hunt with Jason O'Mara as Sam and it was set in L.A.

    Unfortunately despite the impressive 1971 sets (they changed the year so they could include more references to historic events), it paled into insignificance next to the Brit version prompting the studios to cancel plans to film a series until they'd reworked it. This is obviously their second stab.

  7. Craig Chambers
    IT Angle

    @ Ron Eve

    The Office: An American Workspace is not bad. It's good in its own way.

    I'm not convinced about Life on Mars though, but don't knock it until you've tried it.

    It's 'Coen' brothers by the way, not Cohen.

  8. Si
    Thumb Down

    What happened to Colm Meaney playing Gene Hunt?

    Colm Meaney was Gene Hunt in the leaked pilot, have they kicked him out?

    It won't make any difference who they cast, it's on US network TV so Hunt can't say anything sexist/racist/politically incorrect because of all the censorship, thereby robbing him of all his best lines.

  9. Andrew Moore

    Kick it to the gutter

    I've already unenjoyed the pilot with Colm Meaney as Gene Hunt. God that sucked.

  10. Robert Grant Silver badge

    Re: Ron

    The US Office was alright, just a lot less subtle. Definitely easier to watch, but not as funny.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a toss up ...

    ... as to which will be a worse adaptation of a British orginal - Life on Mars or Edge of Darkness.

    I await both with baited breath ....... not.

  12. Sooty

    i propose

    we refuse to accept anymore American tv' series over here in blighty. instead they should all be remade with a British cast and set in British locations.

    i have a funny feeling it wouldn't be well received!

  13. Dave The Cardboard Box
    Paris Hilton

    If HBO made it...

    ...we'd lap it up like "orange" Cresta. ABC though?

    "What the heck do you mean, read him his rights, you mother-freaking non-Christian?"

    Paris because the 70's is like a pre-historical and stuff.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The original series used 70's British culture and society as it's basis and in particular 70's British cop shows (obviously). Thirty odd years ago US culture and society and cop shows were very different animals to their British conterparts, so there is very little common ground. Therefore there can be very little from the original scripts that will be usable.

    Nothing against US TV here. After all very few US series have converted successfully to the UK. The original will always be better, in much the same way as an adaptation of a book will never be as good as the book. Except, of course, on those rare occasions where the entire book is directly transcribed to the TV script. Which is something you wouldn't do when adapting a British TV program to the US because you'd end up with exactly the same program.

    Can you really see Keitel saying, "It's nearly teatime. I'm 'avin' 'oops."? Thought not.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Should be an interesting series

    The pilot episode was leaked online over 3 months ago and I quite enjoyed it - you have to remember that they're not trying to copy the Britishness of the UK Life On Mars but just use the concept of a cop being sent back in time to the 70s.

  16. Paul Coen

    Won't have the guts

    It's just going to be another cop drama after a while. They're certainly not going to choose to end it until they milk a couple of seasons out of it, which in US terms is more than 40 episodes on a normal network show. Yeah, they'll be able to come up with 40+ quality scripts.

    And they won't have the nerve to end the series the same way either. What kind of message would it send the children, who shouldn't be watching it anyway?

    Oh well, hopefully it'll be better than "Payne", the lousy remake of "Fawlty Towers" starring John Larroquette.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Xenophobia; that's a long word

    ...isn't it? Is there any other explanation for the American network's inability to simply show high quality programmes made in other English-speaking countries?

  18. Dogbyte
    Thumb Down

    They'll ruin it

    Can you see the Americans allowing lines like, "Slower than a spastic in a magnet factory"?

  19. James


    Oh for the love og God why can they not watch the orginal?

  20. Robert Moore

    Why why why

    This sounds truly horrible. I look forward to it. :)

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Another Screwup

    I have no doubt that all the best bots will be removed in the cause of the almighty advertiser leaving utter drivel.


  22. Pete Burgess
    Paris Hilton

    @ Ron Eve

    And this is going to be no exception. I've seen the first pilot, with Colm Meaney playing the Gene Genie, and it was actually quite close to the original, but TPTB didn't like the "confusion of the situation" and ordered another pilot with whole new cast and new script, with the blessing of the original creators apparently. It seems that there is a good chance that Sam actually does go back in time in the US version from what I can gather. I guess the ABC execs didn't get that the confusion was one of the central plot-points...

    Paris, cos she's often confused and needs to video everything as a reminder...

  23. WonkoTheSane

    Some other remakes to consider

    Once again, Wikipedia to the rescue...

    The pilot version of Life On Mars US was set in Chicago & had Colm Meany as Gene Hunt, before NYC & Harvey Keitel got a look in. The plot (and most of the script) was IDENTICAL to the first episode of the UK original.

    Mine's the one with an ORIGINAL IDEA in the pocket!

  24. WonkoTheSane


    I meant to say LA not Chicago for the pilot.

  25. Paul


    "Oh for the love og God why can they not watch the orginal?"

    That's what BBC America is for.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    " "Oh for the love og God why can they not watch the orginal?"

    That's what BBC America is for."

    Nah, that's already over-edited. Got to make room for those commercials yer know and we can't be having any of that naughty lingo.

    Much better off with the original downloaded from the 'net :-)

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More violence, not politically correct

    do you think that the idea of this just might actually be to avoid the liberal "read'em" their rights programs which dominates so much mainstream police shows now-a-days in the US? There are some popular ones already (The Shield, CSI:SV, 24, and so on) ... because they take such huge liberties in busting citizen's liberties... "the godless commies (terrorists) do not deserve constitutional protection. The heck with reading them their rights."

    So instead of a guy who knows what is right and and struggling with the dilemma of working in such a climate as the 70's, we will likely see a more action packed program without any insight into the dilemma, the need for change, and and the good reasons which brought change about. All of which by the way, the BBC version played fairly well.

    I would love to be wrong on this.

  28. Tim Bates
    Thumb Down

    The audience or the TV station managers?

    What's wrong with taking a TV series like Life On Mars and simply playing it to the US audience? Are they that retarded they can't cope with the idea of London?

    Not sure what it's like over there in the UK, but here in Australia, we happily source TV shows from USA, UK, NZ and of course home brewed stuff. Surely the US market could do with some fresh blood from other countries that isn't just remade. Maybe then they'd know that there is more than just USA in the world (and shock! there are difference legal systems).

  29. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Might work

    But Life on Mars itself depends largely on The Sweeney for it's anachronism. Wonder if that's why it was set in Manchestoh what with Mr. Thaw coming from there. Who is the yank equivalent of Regan?

    And Mr. Haines: "cultural flatline" - we didn't get that till Maggie got in and fucked everything up.

  30. Cap'n wotsit

    I will watch and see

    to be honest, I will watch it just to see how good or bad it really is. I like Harvey Keitel as an actor, and think he may do a good job.

    that being said I will reserve judgement after the yanks screwed the pooch with british classics like Red Dwarf and Dad's Army.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It's not Xenophobia.

    American TV bosses have a very low opinion of their audience's intelegence. They always assume that the American audience won't understand British TV and that it will need "converting" to American. They made the same assumption about Monty Python, but luckilly that made it to US screens in it's original form and history tells us that they loved it. However the bosses learned nothing from that experience and still insist on remaking everything they get their hands on. Most of the time it turns out to be a flop too, but they keep trying.

  32. Zmodem


    if the bbc had some proper lighting engineers. they could just sell the oirginal series to america like itv does

  33. steogede

    American British TV

    >> Here's some good news for those of you who like a good British TV series with fewer British

    >> people in it and preferably set in the US of A:

    I wonder how many US TV execs read El Reg.

    Re: @Xenophobia, I reckon it's down to greed, they remake everything because they get to keep a greater percentage of the royalties (even though there are no royalties when it flops).

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Tim Bates

    Are you that retarted that you can't cope with the idea of Manchester?

  35. Tony
    Thumb Down

    Oh FFS!

    At the risk of sounding like 'Mr. Angry of Southend' writing to 'points of view'...

    Why on earth do the American networks/studios insist on taking anything good made outside of the US, removing everything that made it special and regurgitating it with all the (new Americanised) plot points spoon-fed to the viewer like it was aimed at 5 year olds?

    Just look at movies like 'The Ring' and 'The Italian Job' totally sodomised by US studios.

    What the hell is wrong with them?

    "Yeah Man! That Shakespeare is really hot right now! The network is very interested in producing a mini series of Henry Vee"

    "But you know what I think would improve it? If we set it in New England and get the writer from 'Dude, Where's my car?' to rework the dialogue a bit. Awesome."

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Robert Long

    Money is a short word. It can be re-sold again to the rest of the world and back to Britain again. Nothing to do with xenophobia which is something which you don't suffer from (sarcasm).

  37. Galaxy Bob

    Hill Street Blues?

    So, LOM was based on The Sweeney, will the American version be based on an American cop series from the 70's? Cagney and Lacey or Hill Street blues come to mind, but what would really make it work would be a red Ford Torino with a white stripe, being driven by "Gene".

  38. Cliff

    Follow the dollar signs

    Let's start by disregarding quality or originality - the bulk of the audience for the US version won't ever know it's anything other than the original brainchild of the network, and nobody will tell them.

    Now, you run a network in a country with different programming traditions, where quantity rules over quality, and praying to get to the magical 100 shows which means you've got residual global sales for ever (Friends, for instance). Faced with a choice between something truly original, and something that's been a hit elsewhere, it's an easy decision, you take the hit. You can't show the original, there are only around 16 shows, so even if the guys didn't talk kinda funny and drive on the wrong side of the road, you still couldn't rub the other networks faces in the fact you had a massive hit by coming back with a second and third series, so you have to remake it. Whilst you remake it, you make it more culturally appropriate, water down the language, work out how to spin it out over years (see The Office USA) by slicing the good stuff thinly and piling it on top of more same-old.

    Remember, they don't *want* to remake the UK version, they want something they can *keep on making forever*. This means it will, guaranteed, jump the shark. In the UK it's seen as the pinnacle of excellence to leave the audience wanting more and remembering your show as being perfect; in the US it's preferred to flog the horse until it's not just dead but rotting and fly-blown beneath you, and everyone remembers that you had a good show once.

    As for The Office USA, it's OK, but it's a completely different show. We're at the zany activities stage, the romantic threads are too important now (Tim and Dawn's counterparts have just got engaged), it's dying - but after 60 or so shows (compared with the 12 UK originals), what can you expect? It's spread thinly, but is really settling into another cookie-cutter sitcom, all they need is a sofa.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Hmmmmm, @ More violence, not politically correct

    > The original series used 70's British culture and society as it's basis ...

    Spot on. The original was ostensibly an "old" police procedural series updated with a "(far more) modern" DI character. But the "skeleton" for the plot arc was always "when really" was Sam Tyler innit. Going further with the anatomy analogy, I'd posit the plot's "tendons" were exactly those direct references to 70's British culture and society, as you might have said.

    The BBC's "Test Card Girl" randomly appeared as the potential Fifth Horseman, "Insanity" (always creepy, to the point of frightening, except at the very very very end). An adult-ified "Camberwick Green" intro started one show. Both of these refs. reminded us of Sam's original predicament. These references (and more) drove the plot's signature quirkiness - that anything could happen next, instantly 3 decades away.

    If the American version is only a derivative, it'll fail. There simply isn't the same cultural "tendons" from American 70's popular media to hold the plot branches together, 30 years apart, unless ...

    > ... we will likely see a more action packed program without any insight into the dilemma, the need for change, and and the good reasons which brought change about. ...

    *sigh* We've already had a Starsky & Hutch remake recently. But I agree with your assessment. Thank *** I have an all-region player to play the original series.

  40. peter

    oh god

    actually..... no, i'll just get my coat

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    The eternal series

    "...they don't *want* to remake the UK version, they want something they can *keep on making forever*..."

    Except when it's genre and any damn good at all. Firefly, B5, Farscape: all sacrificed before they were done.

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