Fall TV ’08

I only picked up two new shows this year: Life on Mars and My Own Worst Enemy, and one of them has already been cancelled. Fortunately, it’s My Own Worst Enemy that’s been cancelled, because I have really preferred Life on Mars.

Life on Mars, ABC, Thursdays 10 ET/9 CT
The 2008 version of Detective Sam Brady is stuck in 1973, due to a freak car accident. He is (and we are) not sure if he’s dreaming, hallucinating, in a coma, or what. When I started watching the show, I assumed that the car accident was just a gimmick to give the producers a reason to set a show in 1973, but it’s instead an ongoing mystery as to why he’s there and how he’ll get back. In the meantime, he’s encountered his parents and his 2008 partner. The mystery part reminds me of early seasons of Lost, when speculation was rampant about whether the characters were dead, in purgatory, or what-have-you. I’ve gotten so into this show that I stay up late to watch it (we can only watch TV after about 9:00 p.m. these days, after Nathan goes to bed, and that means on Thursday nights that I have Ugly Betty, The Office, and Life on Mars to try to cram in between about 9:00 and 11:00).

One of the noteworthy things about Life on Mars is that it’s an adaptation of a BBC series. I’m tempted during every episode to go find out about how the BBC series worked, but I’m afraid it’ll spoil the intrigue if I do. Every week, I decide instead just to watch and to follow the American series, allowing it to twist and turn on its own.

The show has gone on hiatus until late January, when it will apparently be teamed up with Lost on Wednesday nights. I’m glad of the pairing, but when I watched the promo at the end of this week’s episode that said, “When Life on Mars returns in January…,” I was genuinely sad that it won’t be occupying my Thursday nights for awhile.

Grade: A

My Own Worst Enemy, NBC, Mondays 10 ET/9 CT
The show revolves around Christian Slater being a superspy who has an alter ego that’s a mild-mannered family man. Unlike other spy shows, though, the cover is unaware that his other life is as a spy. Or at least, he’s supposed to be unaware of it. Due to a glitch in the CIA’s software, Henry keeps waking up as Edward in the middle of assignments. Embarrassing.

I’m not nearly as fond of this as I am of Life on Mars. The pilot looked promising, and then the second episode was terrible. I watched the third episode to see whether it would be more like the pilot or more like the second episode, and it sort of split the difference. I’ve continued watching since, to continuing testing it out, and it keeps splitting the difference. It’s not terrible, but not gripping, either.

The plot holes do get to me, too. For example, why is it important that the two personalities not know about each other? Other spy programs just give the guy a cover and he keeps track of it. Furthermore, the spies’ covers are all as happily-married family men, which just seems like a bad idea. Sure enough, Edward’s partner Raymond’s wife is now suspicious that he’s having an affair, because he keeps cancelling plans and not calling her. Why would you intentionally entangle your spies in these kinds of lives? In other words, I’m not sorry that it’s been cancelled, but I’ll continue to watch the episodes that NBC keeps airing.

Grade: C+

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