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The American transplant of the British series Life on Mars premieres tonight on ABC. The title of the series refers to the David Bowie song, which was playing on NYPD detective Sam Tyler’s iPod, when he is hit by a car and suddenly transported back thirty-five years to 1973. When Tyler (Jason O’Mara) wakes up, the song is playing on an 8-track. Tyler returns to his station to find people whom he doesn’t know: Chief Detective Gene Hunt (Harvey Keitel), Detective Ray Carling (Michael Imperioli of The Sopranos), Detective Chris Skelton (Jonathan Murphy of October Road); Chief Detective Gene Hunt (Harvey Keitel), and policewoman Annie Norris (Gretchen Mol), who becomes his 1973 love interest. His present-day (2008) love interest is played by Lisa Bonet, and the series mixes past and present through dream sequences. According to the Los Angeles Times, the opening episode “closely follows the model, not only in plot and dialogue but often in specific shots.” The series, originally set in Los Angeles, was drastically reconceived after David E. Kelly dropped out and turned the series over to the producers of October Road and Alias. Only O’Mara returns from the cast that appeared in the pilot.

During a recent walking tour to Brooklyn Bridge, my Modernist New York class came across a scene from the series being filmed near the Brooklyn Heights Esplanade:

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[Photos by Ian Rahman]

It was a kick to see the cars and clothes of my pre-teenage days. I’ll be watching the pilot just to see Harvey Keitel do his thing. After that, we’ll see: perhaps I’ll add it to my TiVo’s Season Pass list, where it can join Mad Men (set in New York in the 1960s) and replace New Amsterdam, another show that evoked New York’s past, but was cancelled by Fox last spring.

Meanwhile, here’s a preview of the series from the Los Angeles Times:

And a

blast from the past — Bowie as Ziggy: