British time-travel cop show

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.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Richard

    Thanks for the tip! This sounds like a real hoot!

  • Richard

    Thanks for the tip! This sounds like a real hoot!

  • Pingback: Travel » British time-travel cop show

  • Pingback: Travel » British time-travel cop show

  • S Bauer

    “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Inspector Leopard of Scotland Yard, Special Fraud Film Director Squad.”
    “Leopard of the Yard!”

    Now that’s the kind of ’70s cop show I’m talking about. (Actually, Dish network doesn’t offer BBC America here in their basic package, so I don’t get to see any of this stuff.)

  • S Bauer

    “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Inspector Leopard of Scotland Yard, Special Fraud Film Director Squad.”
    “Leopard of the Yard!”

    Now that’s the kind of ’70s cop show I’m talking about. (Actually, Dish network doesn’t offer BBC America here in their basic package, so I don’t get to see any of this stuff.)

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    I’m also a fan of that show. I just posted on it last week.

    I find that they portray the differences in attitudes between the times pretty plausibly. And show just how easily either way of approaching things can imagine its the only way. Both Sam and Gene end up learning a lot from each other, though.

    And where do you ever see a character like Annie?

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    I’m also a fan of that show. I just posted on it last week.

    I find that they portray the differences in attitudes between the times pretty plausibly. And show just how easily either way of approaching things can imagine its the only way. Both Sam and Gene end up learning a lot from each other, though.

    And where do you ever see a character like Annie?

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    One other note:

    “Guv” seems to be a British slang word that functions like “dude” does over here. It’s short for governor. I remember “governor” being used by Eliza Doolittle’s dad in My Fair Lady. By 1973 it looks like it got shortened.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    One other note:

    “Guv” seems to be a British slang word that functions like “dude” does over here. It’s short for governor. I remember “governor” being used by Eliza Doolittle’s dad in My Fair Lady. By 1973 it looks like it got shortened.

  • http://gracenf.org Evan Gaertner

    ABC announced that Life on Mars, an American version produced by David E. Kelly will be broadcast in the fall on Thursday nights after Grey’s Anatomy.

  • http://gracenf.org Evan Gaertner

    ABC announced that Life on Mars, an American version produced by David E. Kelly will be broadcast in the fall on Thursday nights after Grey’s Anatomy.


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