It isn't uncommon that my wife and I come to these TV shows late. For instance, we still have never seen a single episode of "24", and we had to go back and rent DVDs of The Sopranos to catch up on three or four seasons so we could watch the last episode along with the rest of the country. There is simply too much TV to try to find all of the good shows and stay up with them unless you are one of those people who walk in the door, glue your ass to the couch and don't move until the alarm goes off signaling it is time for work. The answer is A) getting recommendations from friends as to which shows are good and 2) not feeling bad if they give you bad info and simply moving on.
So, if I may be so bold as to implore you to go forth, get hit by a speeding car and wake-up in 2006, back when the British version of Life on Mars came out, and watch it.
A few caveats: First, based purely on production values (Americans tend to spend a lot of money in TV production, special effects, soundtrack and such), I totally preferred the American production of Life on Mars. Keep in mind, they had two things going for them. There was already an established story that worked, and secondly, Lost! is a huge hit and now, people seem to be a little more accepting of suspending reality an hour at a time.
In the American version of LOM, they really sold the fact that it was 1973 and thanks to Michael Imperioli as Det Ray Carling going all out with the 70's porn star look, you couldn't help but feel like you were watching Starsky & Hutch from time to time. And the music helped. The American version was all over the music in most scenes and if only for comedic value, there was a lot more references by Det. Sam Tyler to modern day. And finally, like most American shows filmed in NYC, they seem to have lots of extras walking around to make it appear real.
From the production stand point, the Brit version appeared to be filmed on a closed studio lot. I can only assume the BBC does not pay for huge productions where every scene is filled with 200 hundred extras wandering around, nor can they round up a fleet of 1970's vintage cars so as to allow a car chase scene to involve more than two vehicles - the one being chased and the one doing the chasing. For me, that was the most frustrating thing about watching the Bloke version; the fact that it did not share the same scenery, the same rich soundtrack and all those little extra things in the background that may or may not catch your eye the first time you see it, that really make you feel transformed to the era.
Okay, enough of the caveats. The Bloke version of LOM had a much more believable lead actor, John Simm as Sam Tyler. More importantly, the role of Sam's boss, Gene Hunt was played by a guy named Philip Glenister. Just looking at his bio, it would appear he has been playing copper roles on British Telly for quite some time, so the role of DCI Gene Hunt probably came natural. As much as I loved Harvey Keitel's Gene Hunt in the US version, you cannot help but immediately want to watch the Glenister version yell, cuss and scream at people, over and over.
A note of caution: My wife also liked DCI Gene Hunt on the Bloke version, and now, she is running around the house yelling things like, "Oi! Drop your weapons! You are surrounded by armed bastards!" or " You great... soft... sissy... girlie... nancy... French... bender... Man United supporting POOF!" Yes, the dog especially loves that one. She now likes to use terms like Bollocks and is fond of telling people "You're nicked!" So keep that in mind if you decide to go back and watch the British version, you may find yourself with an entirely new vocabulary.
A final note: Again, being way out of touch, we found that there is a follow-up to the Brit version of LOM called Ashes to Ashes. Sam Tyler seems to be gone, but now some lady detective has gone back to 1983 to join DCI Gene Hunt. I can't wait to see it!