Life on Mars is quite frustrating. The template it works off of is so rich, and much of the cultural references are right on (without being too "right on," if you know what I mean) but the they just can't seem to nail the tone that they're shooting for. Last week delved a bit into camp, which is where there's more potential, but last night's episode criminally wasted the comedic talents of Robert Klein and Lenny Venito (who killed on The Knights of Prosperity).
The cultural references were many, including a little BBC nod of naming Sam's mother Rose Tyler, the name of the character Billie Piper played on Doctor Who. Musically, Paul Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion" was an easy call, and The Beach Boys' "Long Promised Road" was an inspiring choice, but the winner of the evening goes to the combo of T. Rex and Jim Croce. In the BBC version, Sam runs into T. Rex's Marc Bolan and warns him to stay away from Mini Coopers (Bolan died behind the wheel of one). Here Sam runs into Jim Croce and warns him about tiny airplanes (he would die later that year in a small commercial plane crash), but more importantly, T. Rex's "Bang a Gong" is playing in the background, as a callback to the original. Very nice. Other musical references include Deep Purple on The Dating Game (yes, it happened in 1968), Sam flashing on a Nirvana Nevermind t-shirt, Gene being called "The Jean Genie," and while it was great hearing the final strains of a Lou Reed-led Velvet Underground ("Rock n' Roll," Reed left in 1970), here they play the full version which didn't get released until much later. Maybe the nightclub owner has a connection to Reed... Who knows?
One final reference of note is No Nuts going to see Woody Allen's Sleeper, which is apropos in that it finds our hero woken up from a 200-year coma to a future that he's clearly out of place in. It would be nice if even a smidge of the anachronistic slapstick of that film rubbed off on LoM.
Life on Mars - Episode 1.04 (playlist)
Chuck - Episode 2.05 (playlist)
Chuck turns the nerd appeal up to 11 here with Missile Command, Rush, Transformers (the original, nerdier, animated version of course), the recent video game documentary King of Kong, and Arrested Development's Tony Hale. Nerdgasm!
Skins - Episode 2.03 (playlist)
Might be my favorite moment of anguish captured in television all year: Sid breaking down to the cacophony of Crystal Castles "Alice Practice." They cut out two Sigur Ros tracks and Ryan Adam's "Come Pick Me Up" in the American version, though. Tsk-tsk.
This reboot is getting picked up overseas by E4, home of Skins. Boy are they in for a letdown. Hard to believe that Nic Harcourt is still slumming as music supervisor here.
Jenny quits her stupid internship and ends up with Nate, while three little words trip up Chuck and Blair. OK, so I skimmed through it. The real news this week is the release of the soundtrack, which wins for cleverest title of the year (OMFGG).
More: Mad Men's season finale drops hints at the coming British invasion; Michael and Holly hear way too much of Tom Cochrane's "Life is a Highway"; and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia goes crazy with references: Steve Winwood's "Higher Love", "Oh Yeah" by Yello, in turn referencing The Secret of My Success and finally, Danny DeVito revisiting his turn in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
Previously: Osama (Been a lot of) [Last Week's Roundup]