Monday, June 09, 2008
Life on Mars v. Swingtown
It's too soon to judge after only one episode but what I witnessed on the initial episode for Swingtown last week is just what I fear will happen to Life on Mars should a U.S. studio make the series.
Life on Mars, a series shown here on BBC America told the story of DCI Sam Tyler, who for some unknown reason is transported back in time to the nineteen seventies. The show combined an exciting police procedural with a genuinely compelling and heart-breaking personal story. The show certainly used references to the seventies, but never pounded your head with them. They were subtle and often in the background.
Swingtown did not have a single frame without huge seventies' signifiers: music, fashion, products, word usage. They used these signifiers, in fact, as a major character. Mad Men last year sometimes pushed their sixties references a bit too far too, but they were commenting on that culture so it worked. Here it is just laziness or a belief their audience needs constant reminders of where they are.
Oh, please leave Life on Mars alone. It was perfect as it was. I know I said this about The Office and was proven wrong, but this is very different sort of show. Let Sam rest in peace.