Friday, November 14, 2008
Here's a job I could do.
Historical consultant for the new ABC TV show Life on Mars. Because whoever is in charge knows nothing about 1973.
I watched the first episode, where the guy on the right of the picture gets a bump on the head and is transported from 2008 to 1973. I didn't like it much and made no plans to watch any more, but I tuned in last night's episode because of ads saying "This is the episode to watch to get hooked."
I watched it. I'm not hooked. My first impression was right, it sucks.
Here's a problem. Harvey Keitel. Obviously a very good actor, but miscast because of his age. He's supposed to be a hard ass lieutenant who likes to beat people up. At his age, he should be a hard ass captain who likes to beat people up. He's too old to be a lieutenant.
Remember when he was in Bad Lieutenant? That's sixteen years ago. He shouldn't be a lieutenant anymore.
Moreover, an old school, beat 'em up cop in 1973 would have his hair trimmed much shorter. He wouldn't put up with any hippy crap.
They are trying, with limited success, to make the guy from the future "talk funny", but a lot of this falls flat because the writers don't know the language well enough. The new guy says "think outside of the box", and this confuses people. That was a good one. But Keitel, who is supposed to be from the era, uses the modern construction "they got their ____ on". Bad work.
Also bad work. Guy from the future calls the other cops "tools", and this confuses the police woman, played by Gretchen Mol. I first heard the phrase "tool", synonymous with "dick", in the Firesign Theater routine Nick Danger, Third Eye recorded in the late sixties. The police woman went to college. She would have heard it, probably when some guy offered her some pot in an attempt to get laid.
I really like the period drama Mad Men. The writers work hard at keeping it historically accurate. The people making Life on Mars are trying, but their work is second rate. It's too bad, because the cast, including Keitel, Mol and Michael Imperioli, is very good. All the good actors in the world can't save you when the writing sucks.
Getting this stuff right isn't that hard. Just one fiftysomething guy who pays attention could keep them from tripping up so much.
I'm available if you need me.