As I mentioned, I have become a fan of Life on Mars, a British mystery series shown here on BBC America on Tuesday nights. The premise is that Sam Tyler, a detective from our day, went into a coma, whereupon he finds himself as a detective back in 1973.
What I like most about the show is not so much that science fiction overlay but the well-scripted mystery plots, which are stellar examples of the police-procedural mystery genre. Also the characters, especially the Neanderthal-by-our-standards Chief Inspector Gene Hunt, referred to as “Guv.” Where the time-travel frame works best is in the contrast between police work in the 21st century and the way it was back in the 1970′s, before cops worried too much about suspect rights, ethnic and gender sensitity, or police brutality.
Sam just cannot stand the chauvinistic way everyone treats Annie, the loan female on the force.
Guv: “Get me some coffee, will you love?”
Sam: “Annie is the best detective on the force! She shouldn’t have to bring you coffee!”
Annie: “But I don’t mind!”
Then there are the different approaches to criminal investigations:
Sam: “We’ll have to put the suspect under surveillance.”
Guv: “What’s that?” [Sam explains, adding that before too long surveillance will take up a lot of what police officers will do.]
Guv: “Surveillance doesn’t sound like a very manly way to do police work.”
Then there is the wildly, embarrassingly, politically-incorrectness of those old-school cops, highlighted by Guv’s over-the-top sarcasm:
Sam: “I think we should investigate whether this was a hate crime.”
Guv: “As opposed to an I-really-really-really like you crime?”
Knowing you readers as I do, I think a lot of you would like it. Caution, though, for bad language. Though much of it you may find inpenetrable, due to the array of British class accents.