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21 February 2009 @ 04:38 am
US Life On Mars -- No 'pull' in the push-and-pull scenario  
I could be totally wrong here, but I think that a huge part of the reason that the ratings are so despairing for Life on Mars is Sam and Annie.

When you tell a story you need a push and pull. With Life on Mars, the push is Sam wanting to go back to the future and the pull is wanting to stay in 1973. We know why he wants to go back to the future, we understand that push, but as of now, there's no believable reason to believe the pull of wanting to stay in 1973. Ostensibly, it's supposed to be Annie and this connection that he's created with her. That has certainly been implied here and there in big ways (Annie in the red dress, the hospital scene between the two) and smaller ways (Maria talking to both Annie and Sam about the two of them, etc).

From what I've read, the UK version delivered on that connection, and thus, pull. The problem with the US take is that I don't buy this great connection between *this* Annie and Sam. And based on what I've read, not many others do, and that's re-inforced based on what I haven't read; there's no buzz. I find a greater connection between Sam and Gene, Sam and Ray, Sam and Chris, hell, even Sam and Maria and Sam and Windy -- who's apparently disappeared, sigh. In fact, I honestly feel NO connection between Sam and Annie at all. No matter how much the show and actors try and sell it, the vast, vast majority of their scenes feel like two co-workers edging towards a tentative friendship because of their work relationship.

Jason O'Mara and Gretchen Moll just do not have a lick of chemistry. They're good actors, but there is no sizzle, no spark, nothing between them. And that was underscored in this episode when Moll had most of her scenes with Michael Imperoli's Ray because she and Imperoli had chemistry. Just as O'Mara has (had? :sniffsniff:) fabulous chemistry with Tanya Fischer's Windy, and he even has a nice -- if less, WHOAH! than with Fischer -- chemistry with Maggie Siff's Maria. Despite the fact that Sam and Annie are clearly supposed to be the rooting couple, O'Mara and Moll just don't have any chemistry or even that all-important connection with one another.

And that's really a shame, because this is a great show and I do believe that if it had had explosive chemistry between the actors playing Sam and Annie it might have stood a better shot at success. I honestly can't figure any other reason for its downturn in ratings. It started out so high (I think it was about 17 million), but just got lower even though the quality remained the same. There are certainly enough successful cop shows, procedurals and mind-bendy shows to believe that it has nothing to do with anything else involving the show.

Without that connection, there's no tension within the central conceit of the show that relies on that push and pull. There's no pull without the connection between Sam and Annie because the dialogue, direction and framing is clearly supposed to indicate that Annie is supposed to be the connection that provides that pull. Without any ounce of chemistry between Jason O'Mara and Gretchen Moll, there is no connection, thus ... no pull. No tension. So without that, when there are so many other options that provide that delicious television-watching-tension, people don't watch.
sensiblecat: annie and samsensiblecat on February 21st, 2009 11:01 am (UTC)
I've not seen the US version but I can confirm that Sam/Annie connection was there right from the first episode in the original. It ended with him about to jump off a roof and Annie putting out her hand and simply saying, "Stay."

That wasn't quite the only connection to 1973 - there was a growing sense of commitment to the team of co-workers too, and Sam gradually coming to appreciate what was good about the way they did things. But without Annie I don't think the pull would have been quite strong enough.
aroniwen on February 21st, 2009 03:14 pm (UTC)
To be fair I only saw one episode of the American Life on Mars (the third?) before throwing down the remote and swearing to avoid it. But I see what you are driving at there are a bunch of things pulling Sam towards staying in 1973, but without Annie to anchor it I can't see it having the weight that it needed. That's part of the difficulty with doing a remake, you have to know when to deviate from the original script if things start leading in a different direction- which I'm sure is not an easy call (especially if you have to deal with actors contracts et al.)
jedi_of_urth: b5perfectjedi_of_urth on February 21st, 2009 05:49 pm (UTC)
Still haven't watch US LoM but to comment of the UK one:

Part of it was Annie that drew him to stay. Because she was there, giving him reason to think it was real and he had a place there.

Part of it was from a line I understand they didn't use in the US pilot but was in the UK one, that in 2006 all they're technology didn't seem to help them in solving crime half the time. SO there was a sort of wish fulfillment aspect to getting to be a rough and tumble cop in the 70s (not that he didn't also get frustrated with it for the same reasons).

He also had a growing sense of connection with the team (mostly Gene because Ray and Chris weren't that big of figures), and a sense that there was a reason he was here or a puzzle he needed to solve to get back.

But partly, the structure of the show means it is much more push than pull. Because Sam doesn't know what's going on and wanting to know and return home is a HUGE push. And he didn't really realize how much pull the 1973 world had until...well I don't know how much you know about the UK finale so I won't go into huge detail.
eolivet on February 23rd, 2009 04:38 pm (UTC)
I think U.S. LoM botched Annie's role from the start -- so much so that I initially thought she would play a different role than she did in the Genuine Original (with either Sam staying true to Maya, or getting together with Windy -- yes, we both hoped!! :) The fact that they're now trying to paint her as the same character is bizarre to me. Sam has never confided in this Annie the way he confided in the original. She has not been the sympathetic, understanding ear she was before. I believe a huge part of that was giving her a love interest to begin with (which...why? If they were ultimately going to put her and Sam together). Because now, like you said, viewers (or at least you and I) just don't buy it.

This version of Annie works well as a sounding board, as the "skeptic" to Sam's "believer," but strictly in a friendly/professional manner. There's just...no evidence that she's really made that much of an impact on him. And if the show is trying to sell that, I really don't understand what they're doing with Maria Hunt. :/

Bottom line: neither Sam nor Annie seem to care if they're together or not. So...why should we? :x
harper47harper47 on February 23rd, 2009 05:09 pm (UTC)
Excellent theory and I agree. I had a predisposition to like GM because I know her because of her work at the Pirate Playhouse but . . . . there isn't any chemistry at all between them. In fact the only chemistry I see is the chemistry between Sam and Michael Imperioli's character. Now they have chemistry and their scenes together sparkle.

Ah well. I'll keep recording it but since it is no doubt heading for cancellation, I'll probably just wait and watch the episodes in a clump at some time.