23 January 2007

Yes, There's (still) "Life On Mars"

A great day in geekdom: first up, five noms for Guillermo Del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth", and this official confirmation that "Life On Mars" will be returning for a second season next month.

This intriguing and utterly oddball animated promo has been designed as an homage to "Camberwick Green", which I have to admit I knew nothing about until I saw this bit in The Sun and asked my friend Phil about it, who hails from Manchester and thus knows all about this stuff. Originally produced by BBC One in the mid-60s, this stop-motion childrens' fave ran for just thirteen episodes, but spawned a couple of spin-offs and the characters were revived a few years ago for a series of popular Quaker Oats spots. The show was set in the fictious village of "Camberwick Green", and sounds pretty loopy: recurring characters included Windy Miller, who operated a traditional windmill, his archrival Jonathon Bell, who operated a "mechanical farm", and Captain Snort and Sgt. Major Grout of the nearby Pippin Fort military academy. Weekly perils included a water shortage and a bee invasion. And to think, the Brits got this cool stuff while I grew up with "Max The 2000 Year Old Mouse" and "Harrigan".

"Life On Mars", in case you haven't seen it, is the story of Sam Tyler (John Simm), an idealistic Manchester policeman who's hit by a car in 2006 and wakes up, somehow transported back in time, in the year 1973 . Or so it seems. Because you never really know whether there's time travel at play, or if this is all a fantasy playing out in Sam's damaged subconscious as he fights for his life on life support (he periodically receives messages from his loved ones on "the other side" via phone calls, radio broadcasts, etc.) A man out of time--or out of his mind--Sam nonetheless presses on with his police duties but clashes constantly with his 1973 fellows in the force, who have been trained in an era decidely pre-"political correctness"--esp. the hot-tempered berserker Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister), who doesn't hestitate a moment to beat a witness, plant evidence, or take the occassional swig.

Season one episodes are still airing on Canada's Showcase channel and BBC Canada. Or, you can scour the Bit Torrent boards where the show remains a popular download. Trust me, it's as brilliantly done and as addictive as "Heroes" and "Lost", and well worth your time (no word on a DVD release yet, unfortunately).

Check out the promo here. And here's more good news: BBC Canada will begin airing season two of "Life On Mars" starting Feb. 28., 2007.