What is real and what is illusion? Where is the line between perception and reality? Both interesting questions, just not questions you expect to be explored in an ABC police drama.
Sam Tyler, Jason O’Mara, is in a bind. His girlfriend wants to take him home to meet her parents. Sam’s not to keen on the idea and lucky for him they are in the middle of a man hunt for a serial killer. Oh, yeah they’re cops, partners, and they bust the serial killer. But as will happen in the year 2008 if you don’t cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s the serial killer is released due to lack of evidence. Sam’s partner/girlfriend makes a connection about the serial killer and goes off on her own to investigate. Off course she gets nabbed and Sam has to race to rescue her. Pretty standard fare, right? Well here comes the twist. Sam arrives at the serial killer’s apartment and leaps out of the car only to get run over.
When Sam comes to he’s laying laying in the street in front of a vacant lot, not the serial killers apartment building. Instead of his Jeep Cherokee there’s a mustard 71 Chevelle Super Sport with set of Cragers siting there. His bewilderment turns to shock when he spins around and sees the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center sticking up out of the New York City skyline. In a bit of a daze Sam stumbles to the 125 Precinct house he works out of. On the way the streets are filled wide hippies and wide collars, all the cars are from the sixties and early seventies, the music is all classic rock. When Sam gets to the Precinct house there are green and black patrol cars parked outside, inside there are no familiar faces, just a bunch of strangers, Steelcase desks, tons of paper. No computers, no fax machines, no cell phones, no air conditioning.
Thinking this is all some kind of elaborate practical joke, which he has no time for, a serial killer has abducted his girlfriend after all, Sam goes off. He demands to know where his desk is, his chair, where is his computer? At this point every one around him breaks out in laughter. At this point Sam is informed that it’s 1973 and he is the new transfer they have been expecting. Turns out they are investigating a murder eerily similar to the one he was investigating in 2008. Sam figures the only way to save his girlfriend and find his way back home is to solve the murder in 1973. Of course it turns out to be not that simple.
The show is based on an English show of the same name. Having not seen the original I can’t comment on how this version compares but I quickly fell in love with it. The show is a bit of a mashup of genres, cop show and science fiction with a pinch of fish out of water thrown in. The cast is incredible, Harvey Keitel, Michael Imperioli, Gretchen Moll, they are all wonderful. The writing is clever drawing parallels between 2008 and 1973 while also emphasizing how life just thirty five years ago can seem like it might as well as occurred on a different planet.
One of the things I love about the show is that they don’t pull any punches. Sam is never certain if he’s sane, whether 2008 or 1973 is the reality or if there is some other explanation for what’s going on. The ending is certainly thought provoking love it or hate it. I’m still not sure what I think of it and how it fits with the rest of the show, but it’s been fun trying to figure it out. I’m not used to spending as much time as I have thinking about a network TV show.
The video is presented in wide screen format and looks fabulous. I never noticed any compression defects or artifacts, no blooming, or aliasing. The show does have a unique look that may get a little tiring though. As a story telling tool everything that is supposed to be in the present day, 2008 or 2009, has a slightly oversaturated but neutral colorization, all of the 1973 scenes have a bleached, washed out greenish tint and a lot of blownout highlights. As far as the narrative goes it’s a great tool because there is never any doubt over which era a scene is supposed to be in but it means that ninety nine point eight percent of the show has that washed out surreal look.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound in English with French and Spanish subtitles. The audio is great, the dialog, foley, music and score are all perfectly mixed. Which is fortunate because the sound is one of the great parts of this show, from the growl and rumble of the V8’s in the cop cars to the classic rock soundtrack, the seventies style cop show score to the tiny little sound effects that signal maybe a little more is going on than meets the eye.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This four DVD set comes in a single width Amaray case with a cardboard slipcase. The artwork is based on the floaty head cliché but it does mirror the washed out look of the show. The inside of the case does have a nice collage of stills from the show along with a list of the contents of the four DVD’s. The menus keep with the early seventies theme with a retro color palate and vibe. There are audio commentaries for four episodes with the producers and Jason O’Mara. There are also a couple of short featurettes along with deleted scenes and a blooper reel.
Normally it’s upsetting when a good show gets canceled, but this is one case where the cancellation really made the show. I’m sure the producers and actors would have loved to squeeze at least a couple more seasons out of the show, but I think it was a blessing in disguise that the show was canceled. It would have been too easy to simply slip into a period cop show with a slightly wacky lead character or worse some kind of spoof on the seventies. As it is, in the middle part of the season it seems like the show kind of loses it’s focus a bit and tuns into just another cop show, but the show finds it’s center again for the last five or six episodes. If that’s not enough of a reason to pick up this DVD set, where else are you going to find over twelve hours of Harvey Keitel.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Movie 8/10
The Video 9/10
The Audio 9/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10