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China Plans Remake of BBC Time-Travel Cop Show ‘Life on Mars’ (EXCLUSIVE)

A Chinese “Life on Mars” is in the works after BBC Studios and Phoenix Entertainment inked a deal to create a Mandarin-language version of the time-travel cop series. BBC Studios will officially unveil the format deal at Showcase, its annual programming market for international buyers, which is now underway in Liverpool, England.

Life on Mars” was created by Endemol Shine-owned producer Kudos and initially aired on BBC One in the U.K. in 2006. ABC aired a U.S. version, which had a pilot from David E. Kelley and a cast that included Harvey Keitel and Michael Imperioli.

Phoenix will start production on a 24-episode season of the scripted show this year. The original version saw a cop (John Simm) transported from the present day to the 1970s after a near-fatal accident. He finds himself working with Gene (Philip Glenister), a no-nonsense colleague and unreconstructed male. The Chinese version will see a modern-day lawman transported back to 1990s Beijing.

A deal for a Chinese version of “Broadchurch” was inked earlier this year, and “Life on Mars” will be another marquee British drama getting a local makeover. The deal is the first between Phoenix and BBC Studios, the commercial and production arm of British pubcaster the BBC. The show does not have a broadcaster or platform attached but is considered a likely candidate for a local streamer.

“Following the huge success of our hit drama ‘Day and Night,’ developed and produced by Phoenix Entertainment Group for Youku, we have been carefully considering other shows that could meet the criteria of high quality and consistency with our slate and brand,” said Bihai Wu, VP and general manager at Phoenix. “BBC Studios offers a great range of dramas that match our ambitions to produce captivating, first-class dramas for the fast-growing Chinese SVOD market and their discerning audiences.”

As a format, “Life on Mars” has traveled well, selling to territories including Russia, Spain, the Czech Republic and South Korea.

“I am delighted that our first partnership with Phoenix Entertainment Group is ‘Life on Mars,’ which ranks as one of the best dramas to come out of the U.K.,” said David Weiland, EVP Asia for BBC Studios. “We have a huge range of high-quality scripted titles from ‘Doctor Foster’ and ‘Luther’ to ‘Thirteen’ and ‘In the Club,’ shows that would captivate Chinese audiences.”

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