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“Life on Mars”: Ending (almost) on its own terms

Lifeonmarsset

The showrunners just starting the prep for their last episode of the season when the official word came down from the network. Life on Mars would not see a second season.

As much as ABC execs from Stephen McPherson on down love the show, the math just didn’t work. The long-gestating U.S. remake of the hit Brit series garnered mostly strong reviews (certainly from this space and from Variety‘s Brian Lowry) but it hasn’t been able to draw a crowd, despite the benefit of landing ABC’s two best drama lead-in slots, behind “Grey’s Anatomy” in the fall and behind “Lost” for the past two months.

The “Mars” masterminds — showrunners/exec producers Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Scott Rosenberg — were just starting to get ready to shoot episode 17, the last of their order, in late February when the final call was made. There would be no second season of psychedelic adventures for Sam Tyler, the NYPD cop who mysteriously finds himself transported from Gotham 2008 to Gotham 1973 after getting hit by a car in the line of duty.

But the news was not all bad. In a sign of ABC’s affection for the show, “Mars” was not yanked immediately. The show has been allowed to finish Tyler’s journey through deep-seated emotional traumas that scarred 4-year-old Sam in ’73 in ways that grown-up Sam has largely blotted out.

“It was a gift that Steve gave us, creatively to finish out the show and to have that closure for the audience,” says Nemec.

It wasn’t that hard to turn the script for the season finale to the series finale, set to air April 1. Because they were already building to a big revelation, they wound up rewriting the second half of the script to fully explain the “Mars” mythos and enlighten the loyalists on what’s been going on and what becomes of Sam.

(Pictured above, “Life on Mars” stars Michael Imperioli and Jason O’Mara shooting on location in Gotham.)

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