Tonight's New Shows: "Life on Mars" Yes, "Kath & Kim" No, "SNL Thursday" Maybe


Three broadcast network shows premiere tonight, and the verdicts are as follows: ABC’s Life on Mars, yes. NBC’s Kath & Kim, no. NBC’s Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Thursday – it’s live, so who knows?  But if you’re not watching tonight, you’re probably making a big TV mistake.

Life on Mars (10 p.m. ET) could have been a big TV mistake, but ABC’s extensive pre-launch course corrections seem to have paid off. The series, based on the entertaining and inventive British series of the same name, continues to star Jason O’Mara as a modern cop who suddenly finds himself stuck in 1973. But now his co-stars are Harvey Keitel, Michael Imperioli and Gretchen Mol – an enviable roster – and tonight’s pilot successfully mines, if not mimics, the plot and feel of the original.

The question, a big one, is whether the new producers, whose last effort was the horrible October Road, can keep it up once they’re not relying on the original series for script ideas. But for now, Life on Mars is worth watching, and enjoying.

Kath & Kim also is based on a series from another country – this time a long-running sitcom from Australia.. Its stars, for the U.S. version, are Molly Shannon and Selma Blair.  One thing that didn’t translate was the humor. Both characters are so vapid here, and so cartoonish, they don’t even seem fleshed-out enough for a five-minute SNL sketch, much less a weekly sitcom. The running gags here are so lame, overused and telegraphed, they’re more like walking gags – and gag is the operative word.

As for the SNL Thursday series of limited specials, this could be a very good idea, or a very bad one. On nights such as this, when the weekend Saturday Night Live is in reruns, it makes perfect sense… so let’s see. And let’s hope, for sheer entertainment’s sake, that Tina Fey pops in as Sarah Palin. But the bulk of the workload goes to Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler, who host this prime-time “Update.”