Life on Mars: Can Lost Help Save the ABC TV Show from Cancellation?

Life on MarsBased on a UK show of the same name, Life on Mars was one of ABC’s most anticipated new TV series of Fall 2008. It got off to a great start in the ratings but how do things stand now? Will a Lost lead-in help or hurt?

Life on Mars follows the life of modern-day NYPD detective Sam Tyler (Jason O’Mara) who’s hit by a car. When he wakes up, he goes to his police station to try to get his bearings. Things are very different than what he remembers and he finally realizes he’s somehow been transported to 1973. While trying to figure out what’s happened, he starts to help the officers solve a murder that has strange similarities to a case that he was investigating in 2008. Is he sick, mad, or a time traveler? Others in the cast include Jonathan Murphy, Dominick Mancino, Tom Stratford, Michael Imperioli, Gretchen Mol, Harvey Keitel, Chris Miskiewicz, John Cenatiempo, and Lisa Bonet.

The series debuted on October 9th on ABC. Up against CBS’ Eleventh Hour, Mars easily won its timeslot with 11.33 million viewers and a 3.8/10 rating/share in the 18-49 demographic. ABC had a hit! Briefly.

The following week, viewership fell to 8.22 million and a 2.5/7, a loss of 25% of the total audience. While nearly 8.5 million could still be considered a healthy number, it’s terrible when you consider that Mars lost almost 40% of its Grey’s Anatomy lead-in audience.

Unfortunately, it seems that few of those that stopped watching after the first episode haven’t been back. Episodes three through seven of the series have averaged just eight million viewers.

November 20th brought both good news and bad news for Mars. In a show of support, ABC ordered four additional episodes, bringing the first season total to 17. Unfortunately, the 20th would also be the last time that Mars would air in over two months. For a serial drama, that’s close to a death sentence. If a show’s not on the air, most viewers forget about it and start watching other programming. Then, it’s all too easy for them to miss or skip a series’ return.

Should Mars be renewed for season two?

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ABC has several problem areas in its primetime schedule and opted to move Mars to Wednesday nights. It’ll follow Lost beginning next week. On the surface, Lost seems like a natural pairing. After all, both have mysterious and offbeat storylines. In reality, it may signal the end of Mars.

While Lost is still very popular with many viewers, it’s a terrible lead-in. While they seem like a good fit, shows like The Nine and Invasion have all failed miserably in post-Lost timeslots.

ABC makes a practice of airing Lost recaps to remind existing viewers where the story left off and to try to hook new people. They’re not giving Mars any such special treatment. Does the network honestly expect to pick up new viewers midway through the season of a serial drama?

So, while ABC hasn’t given up on Mars just yet, they’re not giving it any tender loving care either. As always, the ratings will ultimately decide the show’s future and next week’s audience will be critical. Does Mars deserve to stick around?

If the numbers don’t improve, let’s hope that the producers will follow their October Road model and give both viewers and Sam Tyler the closure they deserve. What do you think?

Canceled and renewed TV show

16 Comments · Read them below or add one

  1. says

    Who in the world cancel this show!!!!!life on mars.They should of sent him or her to mars with his walking papers .To me you people should of given it another chance at another time slot.


    Please do not cancel Lifwe on Mars and looking to see it next season DO NOT CANCEL THE SHOW

  3. Jill says

    I looked forward to this show every week. Please Please for the love of God bring it back.
    It was one of the only bright spots on TV. Why would they take such an intelligent show off the air? All that’s left now are those ridiculous reality shows that everyone is tired of.

    Serioulsly an actress friend of mine informed me that the show has been cancelled. She was on one episode..Why Why? bring it back ..for the people who actually like thinking shows !!!!

  4. kathy kittredge says

    my husband and i love life on mars, dont let it go, talk to direct tv to keep it going. its the best show on tv for our age group, which is 45-55, there are no shows like that. save our show. Thank you

  5. says

    Love Life on Mars! It’s one of the few shows left on TV that combine witty dialogue with strong plot and compelling characters. Please do NOT cancel the show, or my family will have little reason left to watch regular TV!

  6. Mike says

    Please !Please!Please! Save ABC’s Life On Mars!It is a great show.My entire family watches it every week,even my wife who doesnt like any new shows on tv loves this show.Its funny and exciting and has great music and stories.Enough with crappy reality shows.I’ve been yelling for years that networks should put some effort into creating good tv shows with real actors and now that they’ve finally done it their going to cancel the only show I watch on ABC.The people who run Disney are running Walt’s company into the ground.If Walt Disney was still alive he would fire all these morons and hire people with actual talent.ABC sucks,please let another network pick up this great show!

  7. Ron says

    Mickey the Mouse would do a better job running ABC. A once proud and successful organization can now not get out of its own way. How long before the word bailout and ABC are intertwined.

    Leave the show on and go against the execs, as they haven’t been doing too good of a job lately.

    If only 30% of the decisions are correct, go the other way and you’ve improved your percentage to 70.

  8. Rosie says

    LOST is the reason why LIFE ON MARS is being cancelled.

    LOST was supposed serve as a lead-on for LIFE ON MARS. But LOST . . . is suffering in the ratings. And it dragged LIFE ON MARS down with it. But ABC is allowing LOST to continue for another season.

    I think that the ABC executives has cancelled the wrong series. Pricks.

  9. Margaret says

    I love Life on Mars – seems like ABC takes off all the good shows like Eli Stone, etc. Life on Mars is a very intense drama of the police force in 1973. I hope ABC will listen to its viewers and keep the show for another season

  10. Greg says

    I think an even worse sign is that after the break in the episodes, ABC has shown them out of order. It completely disrupts a couple of important story lines and will surely lose them viewers who will be “lost”.

  11. Terri says

    Life on mars amazes me every week. As a teenager of the 70’s I can’t believe that this is the era I grew up in. If the network doesn’t keep the show, then there is no possibility that the viewers that already enjoy the show will be able to talk it up sufficiently to entice other viewers to try the show. I know my dad would love it because he enjoys the unorthodox and no nonsense behavior of the lieutenant. My husband is a police officer and every week I have to ask if that is really how the police did things in the 70’s. We have to pause the show so he can have laughing time and we don’t miss any of the very tight and well scripted dialog. This one would be a mistake for ABC to lose. ABC doesn’t have so strong a line up that they can afford to antagonize 8 million viewers. How likely do they think we are to watch another series when they continually cancel them.

  12. J Powell says

    I hope “Mars” will stay on the air. I love this show!!! I don’t watch network TV because of crap shows, this is the only show I will watch. Growing up in the ’70’s, this show gives me the real feeling of not only the time period, but more so the feeling that I am watching an old cop show from the ’70’s. I feel the way it is made, that I am watching a Baretta type, or Starsky and Hutch type show…which by the way were also ABC shows….c’mon ABC, Keep this show around…..I know ratings may be everything, but what about show quality, this one has it…hopefully all the idiots not watching it and watching something “real” exciting, like the tired old Survivor series, will come around to quality show like Life on Mars.

  13. Rachel says

    This is a great show and witty. The actors are funny & interesting to watch. The Lisa Bonet thing is odd but the show hasn’t focused on that much lately so I’m enjoying life in 1973 more and more with every episode. The writers do a great job showing really how the times have changed for the better (and maybe sometimes not so much). Keep this one and do a better job advertising some of this in the commercials to get people interested to tune in. I was uninterested and skeptical at first too that this was just another police drama. Was I wrong…there’s much more depth to this show. My husband is hooked too. This shows momentum just got started then I heard it may be cancelled (which in ABC terms means it will). Since it’s rare that a network keeps a show on after leaks of cancellations surface, I fear unless ABC starts making some committments to some quality shows, people are going to give up on ABC all together. Why watch a new show when ABC cancels it in a heartbeat? Maybe this is why the network is struggling. Give shows some time and maybe you’ll gain those viewers you think you will get when you cancel such quality shows such as Life on Mars (amongst others)

  14. john a says

    Life on Mars is one great police drama. Actors are excellent. Much better than anything on tv today. Really mentally stimulating. I look forward to this show every week!
    Keep this show, it is a winner!

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