Two shows from British television premiered against each other Thursday night - Eleventh Hour and Life on Mars. We weren't impressed with Life on Mars in our household but more on that later.
Eleventh Hour, on the other hand, was better than the Brit version.
The surprise was how much better we liked Rufus Sewell as Dr. Jacob Hood than we did Patrick Stewart and how ok we were with Marley Shelton in the Rachel Young part played in the Brit version by Ashley Jensen (Christina in Ugly Betty).
Sewell really made the Hood part his own with greater force of personality than Stewart.
We hadn't expected the American version pilot to be the same plot as the Brit first episode. The two scripts had the same basic plot outline. The Brit version from Granada Television ran 90 minutes on ITV which did give more time to develop the plot and characters.
But apparently some kind of "artistic differences" at the producer level caused plot changes in subsequent episodes and the Brit version only had four episodes. I hope we will have four seasons and fully realize the show's potential.
Then there's Life on Mars. We watched the English show on BBCA. I loved it, my wife was ambivalent about it. We both did not like the American pilot. The show in this episode was just too much like the Brit version. Whatever else, there were significant cultural differences between 1973 England and 1973 America.
Harvey Keitel was fine (what else?). Jason O'Mara is an actor we like, but and O'Mara is playing Sam too much like John Simm did.
And Gretchen Mol just looks too 21st Century. Liz White in the English version looked and "felt" like a slightly above average young English woman in 1973 struggling to find a place in law enforcement. Mol looks like a 2008 hottie dressed up for a Halloween Party as a 1973 NYPD police woman.
And here we go again with post 90's American TV pilots squeezing it all in to grab every viewer. In the British version it took a few episodes before Sam even chats with Annie about his secret and his thoughts on what it means. They had no need to develop a male-female intimacy in the first hour because they weren't going to cancel the show if the female 18-39 demo wasn't impressed.
So in the American version we have the new guy, lost, confused and uneasy, just tell some woman in the station: "Hey, I think either I've traveled back in time, this is all a dream, or I'm nuts. Now take me home then let's go solve crimes with our guns and stuff." But hey, she has a degree in psychology. Yeah, maybe, if her degree was in parapsychology, maybe.
The premise of the show isn't bad - how does a 2008 top investigator used to all the 21st Century rules and csi gadgets and criminal databases function in a 1973 police environment? Opportunities for tension and struggle abound.
We will try a few more episodes. But I have my doubts.