Life on Mars TV Poster Image

Life on Mars



High-concept British crime drama; teens and up.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Because it's a crime show, the series deals with lots of unsavory actions and people, including corrupt cops who rough up suspects to get answers and plant evidence to frame people. Because it's set in the '70s, there's a distinct lack of political correctness -- minorities are mocked, and sexual harassment is standard.


Autopsy photos; a man is hit by a car; police rough up a suspect. Lots of gritty, crime-related violence, but usually not terribly graphic.


The cops make sexist jokes.


"Screw," "bloody hell," other British slang.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Social drinking and smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the detectives in this British crime procedural often use unorthodox methods to solve their cases, including roughing up suspects and accusing people even if they don't have enough evidence. Their actions fuel some of each episode's more violent, gritty scenes. In addition, the '70s setting opens the door for some decidedly un-PC humor and behavior, including sexism.

Kids say

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What's the story?

In LIFE ON MARS, John Simm plays Sam Tyler, a successful young detective chasing down crooks in modern-day Manchester, England. When his girlfriend Maya (Archie Panjabi) goes missing, Sam sets out to find her, only to end up in a near-fatal car accident that leaves him unconscious. He wakes up in 1973 with the same name and the same job -- only now the detectives he's working with don't have 21st-century technological advances like cell phones and fine-tuned forensics on their side. In each episode, Sam must rely on his intelligence and wits to solve a crime, each of which he hopes will lead him to Maya. Making Sam's life miserable are his hardened, unprofessional (by modern standards) 1973 colleagues: new boss Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister), who regularly bullies suspects; detective Ray Carling (Dean Andrews), who's suspicious of Sam and his way of doing things; and detective Chris Skelton (Marshall Lancaster), who's a little more willing to give Sam a chance. The one person Sam bonds with is police officer Annie Cartwright (Liz White), who helps him in his quest to discover the truth about his new life (could it all be a dream?) and catch Manchester's criminals.

Is it any good?


Fans of procedural dramas will enjoy Life on Mars, since it takes the genre one step further -- not only is the lead solving crimes, he's solving crimes that will help him crack the larger mystery of his girlfriend's whereabouts. The show's violence level is more or less on par with American series like Law & Order; like most British imports, its humor is subtle and might fly over the head of younger viewers.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the differences between life today and in the '70s. What's changed? What hasn't? Why is behavior that was acceptable then no longer OK today? How do you think you'd cope without the things you take for granted? What advances in technology do we depend on today that weren't available then? Before fingerprinting and computers existed, how did police do their jobs? How can advances in areas like forensic science help ensure that the right person is caught?

TV details

Premiere date:July 24, 2006
Cast:John Simm, Liz White, Philip Glenister
Network:BBC America
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:DVD

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What parents and kids say

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Parent Written byAMAHAMA March 11, 2012

Good but not for kids

We are watching the first season and it's very good but not at all for kids. Not only dark and gritty, plenty of violence and language and at least one sex scene.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 17 years old Written byravvie April 9, 2008

Really good!

I do like this show; it's really intriguing and pulls you right in. Probably not best for younger kids; you may want to send them to bed. All in all, well done show and very good.


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