It happened on a twenty-hour, transatlantic flight. I had read every book I brought with me (twice) and my mother was too busy playing Sodoku to chat. I turned to the in-flight entertainment - happily, I was on one of those planes with personal consoles on the back of the seat in front of you. Browsing through the selection of television and movies, I stumbled upon Life on Mars. I had heard tell of this series from the Doctor Who fandom (John Simms, who plays The Master in the new series, stars in the British version of Life on Mars). So I gave the show (specifically, the 1st episode of the 2nd season) a try.
It makes sense that Life on Mars originated in the UK. We just don't get creative plot lines like this in the US anymore. Sam Tyler is a modern-day cop who gets hit by a car and wakes up in 1973. Is it time travel? Is he dead? Is it a dream? Sam (and by extension, the audience) doesn't know. This uncertainty creates a dramatic tension that is more psychological than situational. Sam must navigate this new world without the benefit of knowing what is real and what is not. This strips him down to the very essential elements of his nature - he can't be certain of the consequences (if any) of his actions on the world around him, so he must focus on their effect on him as a man. In this way, his alien surroundings help him become more like himself than ever before.
This goes back to what I was saying before, about giving "strange" shows a chance. I find the American version to be quite as delightfully quirky as its British predecessor - possibly moreso with the addition of Sam's neighbor, hippie love-child Windy ("I don't believe in coincidence. I believe in the curlicue whimsy of Fate."). So keep an open mind about Life on Mars - it may surprise you.