ABC, Kelley still in talks on 'Mars'

The verdict is in, and “Boston Legal” will indeed be back on ABC next fall.

Show had been at the center of a tug-of-war between ABC and David E. Kelley Prods.

At issue: ABC wants to greenlight the pilot “Life on Mars,” but Kelley owns the rights to the show (an adaptation of the BBC drama of the same name).

Kelley has expressed his intention to leave “Mars” (Daily Variety, May 7) – but in order for the show to continue without him, first needed to negotiate his departure.

That’s where Kelley’s beloved “Legal” comes in. Show has a loyal, but small audience – and wasn’t a lock to return for another season.

But insiders now say that a deal has been reached between ABC, Kelley and 20th Century Fox TV, and “Legal” indeed will be back for a fifth season.

“Mars,” meanwhile, hasn’t been officially ordered to series yet – but a deal appears to be imminent. ABC did not confirm the pickup.

Critically acclaimed “Legal” stars Emmy winners James Spader and William Shatner as litigators Alan Shore and Denny Crane. Cast also includes Candice Bergen and John Larroquette. Bill D’Elia exec produces with Kelley.

Once Kelley’s departure is finalized, ABC Studios is expected to join 20th Century Fox TV as a co-producer on the drama. Also, “October Road” exec producers Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Scott Rosenberg are in line to take over as showrunners.

Kelley first began developing the U.S. adaptation of “Mars” in 2006, when he obtained the rights.

At the time, ABC gave the show a put pilot commitment, with Kelley set to write the script and exec produce.

“Life on Mars,” which was in contention for last year, but rolled to this development season after Kelley couldn’t find a proper lead for the show.

Jason O’Mara was eventually tapped last summer to play the lead, a 21st century detective who somehow finds himself transported to the 1970s — where he encounters a serial killer who may have something to do with the present-day abduction of his girlfriend.

Kudos Film and TV, which was behind the original, is also a producer on the U.S. version.

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