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Good, Bad And Ugly Meet In 'Life On Mars'

The British sci-fi television series Life on Mars features a police inspector named Sam Tyler who is hit by a car in 2006 and awakens to find himself in 1973, living in a world in which everyone smokes and telephones still have dials. He also finds himself reporting to a fast-talking, chauvinistic boss named Gene Hunt.

Actor Philip Glenister, who plays Hunt, tells Scott Simon that the role is "quite joyous" to take on — particularly insomuch as he's able to get away with behavior that would be frowned upon today.

"[Hunt] gets away with ... a huge amount of things that I — or anybody else — wouldn't be allowed to say, unfortunately, in this day and age," says Glenister.

Though it's technically a sci-fi detective series, Glenister says the show — the inspiration for the ABC series of the same name — also has elements of the great spaghetti westerns.

"I think that Gene basically sees himself as the sheriff of his town, and he's there to kick out the bad guys and embrace the good guys," Glenister says.

One of Glenister's favorite moments in the series comes when Tyler spots a poster of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in Hunt's office. He asks which one Hunt is, to which Glenister's character responds: "All three."

Glenister praises the series' script-writing — which includes lines like "more nervous than a small nun at a penguin shoot" — and defends his character, calling him "a decent guy. ... firm but fair."

Glenister's previous film credits include the 2003 film Calendar Girls. He just finished a project with Woody Allen, and is continuing his role as Hunt in the Life on Mars sequel series Ashes to Ashes. Both seasons of the original BBC series, meanwhile, have recently been released on DVD.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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