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Life on Mars: Now That It’s Cancelled, Will Viewers and Sam Be Left Hanging?

Life on MarsTo no great surprise, fans of ABC’s Life on Mars are quite upset that the network has decided to kill the series after only 17 episodes. Granted, the early ratings weren’t that great but the network didn’t help matters either. Will viewers be given closure or will they and Sam Tyler be left stranded forever in the 1970s?

Life on Mars, a remake of the popular UK series, revolves around a modern-day detective (Jason O’Mara) who is somehow transported back to 1973. He manages to acclimate himself but is stymied as to the how and why of his situation. The series also features Michael Imperioli, Gretchen Mol, Harvey Keitel, Jonathan Murphy, Dominick Mancino, John Cenatiempo, Chris Miskiewicz, Tom Stratford, Matthew Cowles, and Tanya Fischer.

The drama debuted on October 9, 2008 to a solid 11.33 million viewers and a 3.8/10 rating/share in the 18-49 demographic. Unfortunately, those numbers didn’t last and Mars fell significantly in its second week, to 8.22 million and a 2.5/7 — a loss of 25% of the total audience. The ratings for the next five episodes averaged just eight million, sinking to a low of 7.77 million and a 2.5/7 rating/share on November 20th.

Though the series was struggling, there was still a chance that things could turn things around. But then, the network put Mars on a two month hiatus. For a serial drama, particularly one with an ongoing mystery, a hiatus like that is essentially a kiss of death. As expected, when the series finally returned in January, lots of viewers didn’t come back. For the first four showings in 2009, Mars averaged a disastrous 5.5 million viewers and hit a low of 4.63 million and a 1.6/4 rating/share.

Do you think the Mars finale will be satisying?

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This decline caused ABC to pull the plug but, as executive producer Andre Nemec told the LA Times, it didn’t come as a big surprise. He said, “We were struggling a bit with our numbers… It didn’t seem like we were getting that slow, steady climb every week.” Thankfully, the network execs made their decision early enough for the producers to be able to craft an ending for the series.

Nemec noted, “We’ve felt from the beginning that if the show wasn’t going to get its legs for a second season, nothing would have been more of a gift from the network and the studio than to give us the opportunity to find the creative closure a lot of shows don’t get.”

When ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson called with the bad news, the crew was prepping to shoot episode 17, the final installment of the season. Josh Appelbaum, Scott Rosenberg, and Nemec immediately got busy reworking the script. Nemec reflected, “It was heartbreaking to have to write it and simultaneously cathartic to be able to do it.” Production on the episode wrapped last week and it’s scheduled to air on April 1st.

Though the details are a closely guarded secret, we do know that the last episode of Mars begins with Sam searching for his younger self who’s been kidnapped. The story ends in another time.

For those who have looked to the UK version for clues about the show’s final resolution, they should know that it will be significantly different. In the British version, Sam awoke from a coma at the end of the program’s two season, 16 episode run. Applebaum assures, “This could not be further from that.”

He tells TV Guide that the show’s secrets will indeed be revealed — including those about Hyde Park, the precinct he supposedly came from. Appelbaum said, “We will go to Hyde. We will learn what it is and what it looks like.” He continued, “Everything we did is completely justified. It’s one of those endings I believe will make you want to watch the series again, because you’ll see that we’ve given you very distinct clues that will come together.”

Nemec isn’t sure if viewers will be surprised by the resolution but hopes that they will be pleased. He said, “If you’ve been watching the show and paying attention, I think in the last frame you’ll find yourself saying that we didn’t cheat you.”

 

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{ 112 comments… read them below or add one }

Fran April 3, 2009 at 9:23 pm

Great series, writing and acting! Finale was satisfying and fun…. Well done everyone! Thanks for the ride….although way too short….

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Gene April 3, 2009 at 7:29 pm

Shame on you ABC!! You killed a modern classic. This has been the best show to come along since Lovejoy. It seems like a show that requires some thought is doomed by the networks. We can only hope USA or A&E will pick it up.

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philip elston April 3, 2009 at 7:20 pm

just like the dresden files something good is shut down i am really angry i guess its better to watch crap like wife swap and the osburnes and other immoral shows. abc had a great show and blew it again

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mike April 3, 2009 at 1:47 pm

wow! considering they had didnt know they were cancelled until they were already shooting waht turned out to be the last episode, they did an amazing job of wrappng it up! the feeling of bein in a coma hooked up to machines, and all the space refrences all made sense! very creative! i will this show alot. i would blame the cancellation 25% on the general bad taste of americans( it was a hit in england)and 75% on the networks who messed with the scheduale so much.now what am i supossed to watch? dancing with the stars?

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Rob April 3, 2009 at 10:02 am

Good show, good ending.
The entire show being a dream was a little like the St. Elsewhere ending where in that show the entire series was in the mind of an autistic child but this was a solid ending. You had to like the love story between Sam and Annie. All of the references about “Gene Hunt”, “2B”, “Hyde”, “Windy” were nicely done.
The only question I had was the one of the Lisa Bonet character. Even though she was hardly on the show that reference was never cleared up.

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Big Al April 3, 2009 at 7:37 am

My wife and I love the show! Especially me. I grew up in Paterson, New Jersey and spent a lot of time in New York. The show brought back some great memories. The cloths, the cars, the music, the landscape, the dialect, made you feel like you were actually back in the 1970’s. They did an outstanding job recreating that time and place in history, and the cast was excellent also. My thought is if another network had this show it would be back for another season. ABC screwed it up. Well, for those of us who are fans of the show lets be glad we had at least one season of one of the best shows on television.

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Orlando April 2, 2009 at 11:42 pm

Have seen all two seasons of BBC version of Life on Mars and the first season of Ashes to Ashes…This could have translated really well in the U.S. if only they didn’t keep moving the time and the day…After a while I didn’t even know what day it was on? I missed like a whole month of it. I think NBC should pick this up as shows seem to last longer there.

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sandra April 2, 2009 at 7:58 pm

I am so upset . My husband and I loved watching Life on Mars and we will really miss it. We did predict the ending, meaning the show being canceled, quality shows never make it! Hope a smart network picks it up!

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Whaaaat?? April 2, 2009 at 7:37 pm

I was surprised to see the last episode as being the series finale. It was only at 17 episodes and the series was going strong. Oh yeah, I am not a pinheaded ABC exec. I loved the show and agree with most of you about the reality crap that is being churned out these days. I think the ending was ok, but the time after he woke up should have been at least half the episode. I thought he should have woken up from a coma and then looked up the old folks from the 125th and found that they actually existed and actually remembered him. That would have been a great twist. Oh well, the creativeness of ABC is non-existent. Reality shows cost far less then real ones and there are a lot of brain dead people that eat them up.

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Paul April 2, 2009 at 7:14 pm

This is absolute bs! This was one of the greatest shows I have seen in a long time, and I was hooked to it. I agree with Brian, the rest of the shows are so ridiculous and finally a good show comes along, and of course it is shut down. I have lost all my respect for abc.

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Mike April 2, 2009 at 7:13 pm

Well, network TV has once again let us down. “Life on Mars” was the best, most imaginative, and entertaining program on TV this season. I guess we are just going to have to settle for the Midget Bachelorette meets the Chimp Dancing with the Stars.

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Vanessa April 2, 2009 at 6:13 pm

My husband and I love this show! Please bring it back! This has been a great show and will be terribly missed! LIFE ON MARS, brought us back to our childhood it was and is a great show!

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DEB April 2, 2009 at 4:54 pm

WE ARE SO FET UP WITH ABC ALWAYS GETTING PEOPLE TO WATCH THERE SHOWS,ESPECIALLY LIFE ON MARS WHICH WAS GOOD, TO BE LET DOWN AGAIN, ABC YOUR ON A ROW THIS IS LIKE THE 4TH TIME,YOU’VE PUT A GOOD SHOW ON TO LET PEOPLE DOWN AGAIN. TO HELL WITH LOCAL STATIONS,TIME TO GO BACK TO CABLE AND WATCH THE RERUNS.

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brian April 2, 2009 at 3:05 pm

THIS WAS AN EXCELLENT SHOW!! I AM SO DISAPPOINTED TO HEAR ABOUT “life on mars” BEING CANCELLED! APPEARENTLY SMART TV NO LONGER EXISTS. ONLY CRAP TV IS SUCCESSFUL THESE DAYS…i.e. American Idol & Dancing with the Starts…

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liz April 2, 2009 at 12:35 pm

My husband and I love this show !!!! We are so upset!!! This has been one of the best shows ABC has had in a long time>>> We are going to miss those “guys”

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