Saturday, September 26, 2009
Life on Mars: The Complete Series (ABC Studios, $39.99) brings all 17 episodes of this sci-fi crime drama starring an all-star cast on DVD for the first time! We head back in time to 1973, after Det. Sam Tyler is struck by a car in 2008. The series captivated fans and critics throughout the country, with an irresistible soundtrack and of the most celebrated casts on television including Jason O'Mara, Michael Imperioli, Gretchen Mol, and the legendary Harvey Keitel! Life on Mars is a smart, suspenseful drama with a finish that will just blow you away! So the series ends the way it wanted to!
The series was unfortunately canceled. The series started on Thursdays at 10pm in October and November of lats year before a hiatus took place and the series returned in late January on a new night of Wednesdays, and the ratings suffered big time. The series stars Jason O'Mara as Det. Sam Tyler, Michael Imperioli as Det. Ray Carling, Gretchen Mol as Policewoman Annie Norris, Jonathan Murphy as Det. Chris Skelton, and Harvey Keitel as Lt. Gene Hunt. Among the recurring stars are Lisa Bonet as Maya, Tanya Fischer as Windy, Jennifer Ferrin as Rose Tyler, Dean Winters as Vic Tyler, Caleb Wallace as Young Sam, and Maggie Siff as Maria Hunt Belanger. Among the guests this year are Peter Gerety, Edi Gathegi, Odette Yustman, Lenny Venito, Brad William Henke, Wallace Shawn, Kevin Kilner, Paige Turco, Gina Gershon, Mark Linn-Baker, and Whoopi Goldberg.
This series was an excellent show. I think the hiatus hurt the show and also when it returned in late January, it was aired out of order. The cliffhanger from episode 7 in November didn't have a resolution until the ninth one aired, as I think they were trying to start the series on its new night with an episode that was self-explanatory. However, on this DVD they do switch the episodes, so "Take a Look at the Lawmen" was the 8th one aired, is 9th on this DVD, while "The Dark Side Of The Mook" was the 9th one aired, is 8th on this DVD. That is much better! But since they did that, they should have reordered episodes 10-13 as well, as they aired out of order, too. The final four episodes were aired correctly and also are placed right on the DVD. Production order would have been the best thing for the DVD. Anyway, some memorable episodes include the series opener "Out Here in the Fields," when after an accident, NYPD detective Sam Tyler inexplicably finds himself back in 1973, where he must help solve a murder that is eerily similar to a case he was investigating in 2008. In "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadows?" Sam busts a guy for accosting his mother, only to find out he's a loan shark and she's into him for a thousand dollars, but when his mother doesn't want to prosecute, she, unknowingly, leads Sam down a road that puts him on the outs with Annie. In "Things to Do in New York When You Think You're Dead," Sam partners up with Fletcher, his future police mentor, in 1973 to find a Puerto Rican man accused of throwing a black girl off the roof of a building--a case that has the black community up in arms and demanding retribution. In the first half finale, "The Man Who Sold the World," while investigating a child's kidnapping, Sam discovers some disturbing information about his father, as well as the real reason he disappeared for good on the day of Sam's fourth birthday party. In the conclusion, "The Dark Side of the Mook," a mysterious phone call from a tipster leads Det. Sam Tyler to a headless body and a severed head is delivered to the precinct at the same time, thus leading to the discovery of a series of gruesome decapitations that might involve Det. Carling's brother, Eddie. In "Coffee, Tea, or Annie," when a Pan Atlantic air hostess turns up dead, Annie volunteers for a dangerous undercover mission posing as the murdered woman to help solve the second in a possible series of brutal homicides. In "All the Young Dudes," when Sam poses as a streetwise tough to infiltrate a vicious New York City gang suspected of truck hijackings, he's pushed to the limit not to blow his cover, and he reveals a much darker side. In the excellent series finale, "Life is a Rock," Sam wakes up after dreaming about his 2008 apartment with 1973 characters and is told he is most likely closer to going back and later on a mysterious caller offers Sam a chance to return to 2008...all he needs to do is complete three tasks, but a confusing set of circumstances inside and out of the 1-2-5 makes him think twice about whether he even wants to go back. When love, death, promise, hope, fear and mystery converge, will Sam decide to stay in 1973 or return to the future?
Packaging has a thin outer box that you can remove from the top or bottom to get to the case inside. Both the thin outer box and case have the same artwork for both the front and back. The cover has a nice orange background with the New York skyline along with shots of Keitel, Imperioli, Mol, and O'Mara. The show logo is on top in black lettering with the four main star names on top of that. A Modern Day Cop In A 1973 World is printed on the bottom. The back has that orange background with information on the set and one episodic photo and we also have a photo of an 8 Track that lists the bonus features. Technical specifications are listed below the episodic photo.
Opening the case, on the left side we see discs one & two. On the right side we see discs three and four. The discs are overlapping each other. There is also an insert for Blu-ray inside. Disc artwork is very nice, with each disc fitting that orange background. Disc one has episodes 1-4 with artwork of a 1970's style car and in the background we can see Radio City Hall. Disc two has episodes 5-9 and has artwork of that black phone that Sam gets the mysterious phone calls from. Disc three has episodes 10-13 and has artwork of two guns and the Brooklyn Bridge (it seems) in the background. And finally disc four has episodes 14-17 and has artwork of the NYPD police badge with the New York City skyline in the background. When you remove the discs, the panels have nice artwork, along with a disc-by-disc breakdown of episode titles and bonus features. It is nicely done!
The menu screen starts with a police car then we get to the main menu with '70s style graphics and music playing in the background. It is groovy! The options on the main menu are Play All, Episode Selection, Set Up, and Bonus Features. But before the main menu screen comes on disc one, we get some auto sneak peeks of other DVDs: ABC on DVD, Lost, The Proposal, Cheri and Blu-ray DVD. Set Up section has the option of subtitles in English, French or Spanish and how you can register your DVD. The Episodes option gives us the episode number, title and a screenshot. Bonus Features option has all the extras listed. All of the sub-menus have different background music from the show...very '70s style! This show had great music, didn't it?
The episodes run usually 41-43 minutes...unedited of course with all the great music intact. The lowest one is 40:10 and the highest is 43:12. There are about 8 chapter stops per episode. The video is digitally mastered and is in widescreen and looks very good! The audio is great and sounds very good, as it is in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. This is 2008-2009, so it had better be good. There is nothing to complain at all here...it is perfect! The '70s never looked better on DVD!
Moving on the bonus features. We have a lot of audio commentaries! Disc one has audio commentary for the first episode "Out Here in the Fields" with creator/executive producers Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec. They give lots of details and cool facts...I'm sure many of the October Road fans noticed some references to that show, since they created that show also. On disc two we have audio commentary for the great episode ""Things To Do In New York When You Think You're Dead," with Jason O'Mara (Sam Tyler), co-executive producer Michael Katleman and executive producer Scott Rosenberg. Once again this is very fun and O'Mara is interesting to listen to. This was a great episode, too. We also have audio commentary for the fall finale "The Man Who Sold the World" with the same team from the pilot...creator/executive producers Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec. A lot of insight once again is given. And find out details on the cliffhanger at the end! The final audio commentary is on disc four and it is for the series finale, "Life is a Rock," with Jason O'Mara (Sam Tyler), co-executive producer Michael Katleman and executive producers Josh Applebaum & Scott Rosenberg. We learn a lot! Find out details on the last scene that was brilliant! Series finale endings usually go either way, you either love it or hate it.
All of the other extras are on disc four! We have an interview featurette titled "To Mars and Back" (15:34). This is a very good detailed extra that gives us the inside scoop on the cast, characters and the series....journey back to the '70s! Interviewed are Andre Nemec, Scott Rosenberg, Josh Applebaum, Jason O'Mara, Jane Raab (producer), Jonathan Murphy (Chris), Gretchen Mol (Annie), Michael Imperioli (Ray), Michael Katleman, Matthew Lamb (Location Manager), Joseph Zolfo (Unit Production Manager), Stephen Hendrickson (Production Designer), James Nuciforo (Police Consultant), Jim Lillis (Property Master), Wallace Lane (Costume Designer), and Harvey Keitel (Gene Hunt). Then we have another featurette titled "Sunrise to Sunset with Jason O'Mara" (9:33). We spend an entire day with Jason O'Mara on the set bright and early to the end of the day, which is around 9pm. That is a long day, and O'Mara says sometimes it goes even longer! Then we have a nice '70s style featurette titled "Flashback: Lee Majors Goes to Mars" (7:53). Jason O'Mara shows '70s icon Lee Majors around the set. This is a very good special feature. Lee Majors is a fan of the show it seems. Six Million Dollar Man, indeed! Then we have some "Spaced Out: Bloopers from the Set" (2:43)...yes, bloopers! See all the goofs and play on the set, but this is way too short. Finally, we have 10 Deleted Scenes that run 1:30, 0:50, 2:30, 3:35, 0:41, 0:23, 1:00, 1:36, 2:07, and 1:29. O'Mara said in one of the commentaries they deleted a lot scenes with Windy for time, and we see them on here! Gotta love Windy!
I highly recommend this series and set...it is an ABC Studios DVD (the show was co-produced by 20th Century Fox as well), so it is good and filled with special features. We have great episodes, great packaging, great menus, and groovy bonus features! If you forgot to watch the show when it moved to Wednesdays, now is your chance to see what you missed. If you have never watched the show, get this DVD! It has an actual ending, so you won't be disappointed. The cast is great! And the '70s clothing, sets, and setting is perfectly done. Get out your 8 Track and listen to David Bowie's Life on Mars song and you'll be ready for the Life on Mars DVD! Don't space out, Spaceman! Is there life on Maaaars?
View the Trailer.
-- Reviewed by Pavan
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