Dedicated television viewers know that there will always be shows that everyone wants you to watch, either it’s a cult show, a show that ended way before it’s time, or seems to grab everyone’s attention but yours. However many viewers find themselves stumbling upon these shows either years later or late into a shows run. I’ve compiled a list of ten shows, published once a week, that have become classics or are on their way to doing so and have recently been discovered by this writer.
Life on Mars
Created by Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah
Original Run 2006-2007
“My name is Sam Tyler, I had an accident and I woke up in 1973. Am I mad, in a coma, or back in time? Whatever’s happened, it’s like I’ve landed on a different planet. Maybe if I can work out the reason, I can get home…”
I’m a little late to the game when it comes to the brilliant BBC series Life on Mars and in truth I kind of stumbled on it by accident. I always joke that I watch more British television then I do American and Life on Mars was always a title I heard pop up but I was always too busy lost in my Doctor Who, Sherlock or Wallender haze to even comprehend anything else.
The uniquely strange story starts in 2006 when Greater Manchester Police Detective Sam Tyler (John Simm) is hit by a car while working the case of his missing girlfriend. He wakes up in 1973. He’s working for the Manchester and Salford Police, the predecessor to Greater Manchester Police. He’s assigned to the Criminal Investigation Department and working under the command of Gene Hunt (the stunning Philip Glenister), a loud, politically incorrect, and sexist detective who still manages to be charming and one of the most detective’s Sam’s ever worked with. He eventually forms a shaky but meaningful partnership and friendship with Gene. Sam also manages to fall in love with Annie Cartwright (Liz White) a pretty, sweet and smart female detective.
What became clear as I binge watched the first series was the absolute genius of this show. It was dense and intricate but what really set it apart (and where the American version failed) was that in just a few short seasons Life on Mars was able to create such a distinctive style for itself. Another benefit was the shows ability to keep itself sane and coherent as the storyline deepened. Was Sam crazy, was he in a coma, was he simply dreaming? Or did he in fact time travel?
Life on Mars also had the benefit of wonderful actors, in particular Simm and Glenister (who would later star together on another British show Mad Dogs). Simm made Sam’s arrogance, anger, confusion and rare triumphs into the things that we as an audience could hold onto. It doesn’t take long to realize though that the real standout is Glenister though. He is absolutely stunning and his Gene Hun is one of the best things about the show. Life on Mars had one of the most authentic styles on TV and most of that was because of Glenister in a blistering often explosive performance.
Life on Mars is the perfect show to stumble upon and binge watch for the simple fact that over two seasons it was compulsively watchable.