While fans of the American version of "Life On Mars" are no doubt disappointed that the series will end after 17 episodes, fans of the British version will get their first look at the original series' spinoff.
"Ashes To Ashes" debuts Saturday night (BBC America, 9 p.m.), picking up eight years after the original "Life On Mars." This time, DI Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes, "MI-5") is shot in 2008 while on a case.
Moments later, she wakes up in 1981, during the early years of Margaret Thatcher's reign as Prime Minister. Like Sam Tyler in the previous series, she finds herself assigned to Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister), who hasn't mellowed over the years even though Britain itself is changing. Women are no longer just there to fetch his tea.
Like Sam, Alex must figure out why she went back in time all the while adding modern police methods to Hunt's old-fashioned, beat-a-suspect-until-he-confesses ways.
Some reviewers have said "Ashes" is even better than "LOM." I may not go that far, but it will be interesting to see how the Alex/Gene dynamic plays out as compared to the Sam/Gene dynamic of "LOM."
Glenister was terrific in "LOM" as the old-school Hunt, a bully who ruled the streets of Manchester with a badge that gave him license to do whatever the hell he wanted. Only Sam was able to provide a voice of reason and rein him in. How will Gene fare against a woman who is as smart as he is?
Both series used period fashions and music to create a real sense of time, and it's already been fun to watch the ads with Hawes wearing big, frizzy '80s hair. I can't wait to see this series begin.
THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: After waiting seemingly forever, "The Office" (NBC, 9 p.m.) is back and anchoring a new night of NBC comedies as the gang tries to get Kevin a date for Valentine's Day. It's followed by a new "ER" at 10 p.m.
Taylor Swift guest stars on a new "CSI" (CBS, 9 p.m.), which follows "Survivor" and precedes a new "Eleventh Hour."
"Ugly Betty" (ABC, 8 p.m.) is the only new thing on ABC tonight, while the CW continues to air reruns for another week. On Fox, both "American Idol" and "Hell's Kitchen" are new.
Finally, on cable, is one of the most enjoyable hours of the week with "Burn Notice," tinged only by the bitter feeling that this episode is the season finale as Michael finally confronts Carla. Meanwhile, "The Beast" (A&E, 10 p.m.) is new.