January 29, 2009

HOW MUCH HOPE CAN YOU HAVE WHEN THEY DON'TT GET WHAT THE SHOW IS ABOUT?:

There are some hopeful signs of life on 'Mars' (Maureen Ryan, 1/28/09, Chicago Tribune)

The bonus with “Mars” is that there’s only really one guy at center stage—there isn’t a whole island full of characters whose stories you have to keep straight. And as “Life on Mars’” lead character, detective Sam Tyler, Jason O’Mara is just terrific.

He’s been the best thing about the show since it began, but in the Nov. 20 episode (which I recommend viewing online at abc.com), he beautifully played all the notes in a complex, emotional story in which Tyler encounters his father. Guest star Dean Winters (“30 Rock,” “Rescue Me”) did an outstanding job as the senior Tyler, and the intriguing plot contained several surprising twists (however I didn’t closely examine the plausibility of any of it; time-travel stories, if I think about them too hard, give me a migraine).

“Lost” at its best -- and it’s certainly at its best this season -- is not really a show about “What year is it?” shenanigans; it’s a drama is about compelling people having realistic emotional reactions to extreme circumstances. “Life on Mars” appears to have learned this basic lesson, and there’s no doubt that O’Mara’s grounded portrayal of the flummoxed Tyler is worth paying attention to.

But that satisfying Nov. 20 episode, the last before the show's midseason break, featured relatively little of Tyler’s NYPD colleagues. Michael Imperioli, who plays the hotheaded detective Ray Carling, certainly deserves a Best Supporting Mustache Award (if that isn’t an Emmy category, it should be).

When the show’s well-chosen, retro soundtrack is playing, when the main story has an interesting emotional arc for Tyler and when Tyler and Carling are exchanging banter, the show feels close to achieving its potential as an unusual, intriguing action hour.


aargh....

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 29, 2009 12:59 PM
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