Life on Mars

Life on Mars: From Manchester to New York

Stephen Lacey
Ruth McElroy
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qhd6g
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  • Book Info
    Life on Mars
    Book Description:

    This is the first full-length academic study of Life on Mars (and its successor, Ashes to Ashes), and seeks to account for the series’ innovative form and popular appeal. Paying attention to issues of genre and hybridity, the book examines televisual and cultural memory, press and reception contexts and analyses the ways in which both series represent Britain in the 1970s and 1980s. The book also discusses the remakes of Life on Mars in the USA and Spain, acknowledging both the specific address to particular situations and the ways in which key elements are re-worked in different national contexts.

    eISBN: 978-0-7083-2360-1
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. SERIES EDITORS’ PREFACE
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-16)
    Stephen Lacey and Ruth McElroy

    Landmark television drama is shaped by the contexts of its production and reception. Only by attending to these contexts can we fully grasp television drama’s role in our everyday lives and in the wider mediated society of which it is a part. Programmes have a provenance; they come from somewhere and with stories about how and why it is they look as they do. Many of these stories are themselves highly mediated, appearing in the form of actor interviews, press and fan reviews, and DVD box-set extras, so that a television programme’s genealogy includes the stories told about it by...

  6. Part I Quality TV: Form and Aesthetics
    • 1 LIFE ON MARS HYBRIDITY AND INNOVATION IN A BRITISH TELEVISION CONTEXT
      (pp. 19-30)
      Robin Nelson

      In the recent past, both in the academy and in broader culture, much emphasis has been placed upon ‘American Quality TV’ (shows such asSex and the City(HBO, 1998–2004),Six Feet Under(HBO, 2001–5),The Sopranos(HBO, 1999–2007) andThe Wire(HBO, 2002–8)), so it’s good once again to have an opportunity to celebrate a British TV drama success.Life on Mars(Kudos for BBC Wales, 2006–7) is the case in point. Indeed, so successful was the series in Britain that an American version, based on the UK format, has subsequently been made and...

    • 2 ‘AM I MAD, IN A COMA OR BACK IN TIME?’ GENERIC AND NARRATIVE COMPLEXITY IN LIFE ON MARS
      (pp. 31-42)
      Nichola Dobson

      This chapter examinesLife on Marsand discusses both the generic characteristics and the narrative complexity of the show. The series establishes its cop show characteristics very early but at the same time introduces the series-long mystery of a man apparently out of his time. By engaging with the possibility of the supernatural or time travel,Life on Marsdiffers from conventional crime fiction. While the writers were keen to align themselves to crime genres rather than sci-fi, there are generic characteristics present in the show which are undeniably science fiction.¹ This chapter examines the characteristics of both and suggests...

    • 3 IMMERSION VERSUS ALIENATION LISTENING TO LIFE ON MARS
      (pp. 43-54)
      Rob Smith

      Even the makers ofLife on Marsseem to agree that the series’ premise leaves neither characters nor audience knowing whether Sam Tyler (John Simm) is either hallucinating from his 2006 hospital bed or has been physically transported back in time to 1973. However, this is a productive uncertainty. Tyler can know he lived in Manchester 2006, but cannot be certain about anything that has happened since the accident. The viewer can sift the evidence within the series’ diegesis, and bear witness as Tyler shifts between alienation from, and immersion in, the world in which he finds himself. This chapter...

  7. Part II Contesting the Past: Television and History
    • 4 MEMORY BANKS FAILING! LIFE ON MARS AND THE POLITICS OF RE-IMAGINING THE POLICE AND THE SEVENTIES
      (pp. 57-68)
      Andy Willis

      The initial thinking for this chapter was sparked by reading Manchester-based DJ and journalist Dave Haslam’s bookYoung Hearts Run Free: The Real Story of the 1970s. In his introduction Haslam states that:

      The seventies are frequent fodder for nostalgia TV, and the image of the decade is dominated by a selection of the most anodyne symbols … We’ve allowed the Abbafication of the seventies to create a powerful but partial version of the history of the decade … History without the rawness and unpredictability. (2005: 1)

      On the surface the television seriesLife on Marsmay not seem to...

    • 5 SAM TYLER AND THE ‘NEW NORTH’
      (pp. 69-78)
      John Curzon

      Twenty minutes into episode 1.2 ofLife on Mars, Sam Tyler (John Simm) seeks solace in a local pub after his textbook methods of policing have resulted in a young woman being in a coma. Frustrated by the perceived inadequacies of 1973, he complains to the barman (Tony Marshall) of the Railway Arms,

      Why does it have to be now, Nelson? Why this particular year? … eighty-eight was a good vintage. Year I graduated from the force. Colour television, central heating. It was like bloodyStar Trekcompared to this. Can I change it?! I’ll have 1988 please, quick as...

    • 6 ‘MOONAGE DAYDREAMS’ NOSTALGIA AND CULTURAL MEMORY CONTEXTS OF LIFE ON MARS AND ASHES TO ASHES
      (pp. 79-88)
      John R. Cook and Mary Irwin

      Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. From the mid-seventies through to the early nineties, the sixties figured frequently in British media discourses as the ‘golden’ decade of nostalgia: a time of untrammelled freedom and greater innocence, to be looked back upon wistfully from the vantage point of a more complex, cynical and troubled present. Examples appeared in the early years of British TV: in his epic seventeen-part TV documentary history of popular music,All You Need is Love(ITV, 1977), director Tony Palmer deployed extensive interview footage of doyen rock critic, Lester Bangs, filmed in 1975 lamenting the decline...

  8. Part III Recalling the Past: Television as Memory
    • 7 ‘UP THE WOODEN HILLS TO BEDFORDSHIRE’ TIME TRAVEL, CHILDHOOD AND THE UNCANNY HOME IN LIFE ON MARS AND ASHES TO ASHES
      (pp. 91-104)
      Peter Hughes Jachimiak

      This chapter is, first and foremost, concerned with childhood in bothLife on MarsandAshes to Ashes. Whilst DI Sam Tyler (John Simm) interacts throughout both series ofLife on Marswith the TV of his childhood (most notably, the test card girl), childhood is even more of an issue within the first series ofAshes to Ashesthan it is inLife on Mars. Wearing figure-hugging leather and denim, and with an enhanced cleavage, DI Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) is highly sexualised throughout the entire series. Indeed, the audience’s first glimpse of her 1981 self is when, draped...

    • 8 THE MEDIUM IS THE MONSTER … OR THE WORLD? DISCOURSES OF UNCANNY ‘OLD MEDIA’ AND IMMERSIVE ‘NEW MEDIA’ IN LIFE ON MARS
      (pp. 105-116)
      Matt Hills

      Life on mars(bbc, 2006–7) may well have become infamous for many things – the character of Gene Hunt; the car; the seventies soundtrack – but among its many celebrated aspects, the firstOfficial Companionpicks out a further iconic image: the ‘test card girl’ (played by Rafaella Hutchinson and Harriet Rogers). Authors Guy Adams and Lee Thompson note that it is ‘amazing that a small girl playing noughts and crosses can inject such an air of genuine menace into a television drama’ (2006: 34). This chapter focuses less on nostalgic denotations surrounding ‘old media’ representations inLife on...

    • 9 CONSUMING RETROSEXUALITIES THE PAST LIVE ON SCREEN, ONLINE NOW
      (pp. 117-130)
      Ruth McElroy

      This essay explores the interrelationship of gender, feminism and nostalgia inLife on Mars, paying particular attention to its online fans and their cultural practices. In doing so, it situates the drama within the context of UK popular culture and the contradictions that shape postfeminist media representations within it. The concept of retrosexuality holds particular purchase in this context because it ties together on-screen representations with both cultural practices and interpretative frameworks for comprehending the considerable changes to have taken place in gender relations since the seventies, whenLife on Marsis (mostly) set.

      Published four years afterLife on...

  9. Part IV Life on Mars as International Television
    • 10 ‘AMERICAN REMAKE – SHUDDER’ ONLINE DEBATES ABOUT LIFE ON MARS AND ‘BRITISH-NESS’
      (pp. 133-144)
      Brett Mills

      The american remake ofLife on Mars(ABC, 2008–9) offers an interesting case study for debates about the global marketplace for television and the ways in which texts adapt to the cultural surroundings which produce them. Such remakes demonstrate that there is an assumed relationship between culture and the society that produces it, and that that relationship is one based on the nation. That is, for it to be deemed worthwhile to produce a remake ofLife on Marsfor an American audience, it must be assumed that the British original will not, in some way, be read and...

    • 11 THE EMIGRATION OF LIFE ON MARS SAM AND GENE DO AMERICA
      (pp. 145-152)
      David Lavery

      Just before the american version ofLife on Marsreturned to ABC after a two-month turn-of-the-year hiatus on 28 January 2009 (an episode entitled ‘Take a Look at the Lawman’, episode 1.9), relocated to Wednesday nights, newly paired withLost(ABC, 2004–10), the network aired an ad that sought to make a connection between the two inscrutable series. Both, we were told, are about being ‘lost’ on a mysterious island, and indeed Manhattan is inexplicable for Sam Tyler, enigmatically time-displaced there in 1973 from his customary 2008. The hope was that the success ofLostwould help support the...

    • 12 LOCATING GENERATIONAL AND CULTURAL CLASHES IN THE TRANSFER OF SUCCESSFUL FORMATS BETWEEN THE UNITED KINGDOM, SPAIN AND THE UNITED STATES THE CASE OF LIFE ON MARS
      (pp. 153-166)
      Joseba Bonaut and Teresa Ojer

      In 2009, the spanish channel Antena 3 broadcast a Spanish version ofLife on Marsset in 1978, five years later than the original. This meant that the general problems of adapting the series for a new national context – the question of how the social history of the United Kingdom in the 1970s could be ‘nationalised’ – were compounded by a shift in cultural reference points. Of particular importance was the role that British popular music played in shaping the dramatic tone of the series, marking not only the time of the action but also the emotional landscape of...

  10. Part V Debating Production
    • 13 JULIE GARDNER AND CLAIRE PARKER IN CONVERSATION
      (pp. 169-184)

      The following is an edited transcript of an interview, with subsequent discussion, conducted at a symposium onLife on Marsheld at the Cardiff School of Creative and Cultural Industries (University of Glamorgan) on 18 November 2007. The interview was chaired by Professor David Lavery and featured Julie Gardner, executive producer of the series for BBC Cymru Wales, and Claire Parker, producer for Kudos, the independent production company that won the commission to make bothLife on MarsandAshes to Ashes.

      Key

      DL: David Lavery;

      CP: Claire Parker;

      JG: Julie Gardner;

      Q. . .: Questions from the audience.

      DL:...

  11. LIFE ON MARS AND ASHES TO ASHES PRODUCTION AND TRANSMISSION DETAILS
    (pp. 185-192)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 193-202)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 203-212)