Insiders say financial considerations play role

There may not be “Life on Mars” for David E. Kelley.

Kelley is mulling his future on “Mars” — which remains a red-hot contender for ABC’s primetime lineup next season.

Talks are still in the early stages, but it’s looking increasingly likely that Kelley may depart “Mars.” Should that happen, ABC Studios is said to be set to join 20th Century Fox TV as a co-producer on the drama.

Meanwhile, “October Road” exec producers Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Scott Rosenberg are in contention to take over “Mars” as showrunners, should the show go to series.

Such a move would be a stunning twist for a project that’s all about stunning twists. Kelley has guided the U.S. adaptation of “Mars” — originally a BBC sci-fi crime drama — since spring 2006, when he obtained the rights.

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.

Tommy Schlamme directed the pilot, which was shot last summer.

Insiders said financial considerations are playing a part in Kelley’s decision to leave “Mars.” For now, Kelley still controls “Mars,” at least until his departure is ironed out.

Original BBC version “Life on Mars” producers Kudos Film and TV remains attached.

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