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

  1. Garreth says

    As much as I enjoyed this show, I don’t feel that it deserves the description of “orginal” considering that it was a complete remake (save for minor alterations and the ending) of the BBC series, thus the British version is original and the American version is anything but. And to complain that is was cancelled is pointless, I didn’t even notice, I wasn’t expecting more than the original version’s length and it was very close to the same number of episodes. One more thing, I enjoyed this ending (no more than the original’s ending, but no less) I thought that it fit as well as could be, the show is titled “Life On Mars” so why not make them astronauts on their way to Mars.

  2. Rod Michael says

    I can only say one thing, the ending has a beginnning, I could see them on a return trip back to earth. There were many other scenarios that could have been played out but this one should have had a LOT more thought. I loved these actors I’m sorry to see them go.
    Now were left with the new series. GREAT! Frankly ABC its time for you to take a voyage to Mars and stay there.
    A bad decision.

  3. Tami T. says

    I absolutely loved this show!!! It was the first show, in a very long time, that I was anxious about the next weeks episode to air. It had such a wonderful cast and writers! I had never seen any kind of advertisment for it, and while channel surfing one night, I stumbled on it. Of course it was in the middle of the season, and I was lost on some of it, but that didn’t matter, it had hooked me. I am SO ANGRY that they cancelled this show!!! BRING IT BACK!!!!! Make the last episode another dream of Sam’s!!! We need good T.V. And this show was so unique to everything else that is out there right now!!!

  4. Virginia Ogren says

    What a stupid ending–and what a great show. It really “grew on me”. Should have been expected–anything worthwhile ends up this way. And all we get is “Lost, Kings, etc.

  5. Carmen says

    It figures. I like a show and it gets cancelled; I dislike a show and it continues for years. And what do we get instead at ABC? Cupid and Motherhood. What a joke. This was the best and most unique show in a long time. The only thing that’s going to be left in that network that I actually like is EMHE.

  6. Renee S. says

    I loved Life on Mars. It was an interesting concept, wonderful writing and very talented actors. But, networks do not give good shows a chance anymore. Reality tv, what an joke that is, has taken over. The hiatus in the middle of the series killed it. It seems to me if the show does not come out of the gate making more money and catching more viewers than any other tv show ever has it is quickly cancelled and we are left with another crappy competition show in it’s place. I’m about to give up tv altogether because everytime a good show finally comes on it’s gone in an instant.

  7. M. D. says

    I didn’t catch on to this until the start of the last season, and really looked forward to it. When I heard it would be canceled, I kept saying, (SPOILER:) “Please don’t let this have the Roseanne Barr final season “it was all a dream” type of ending. There are so many directions they could have gone but they didn’t try. And how do you (SPOILER:) make peace with a father you just murdered in your mind?

  8. Dalisa Elliott says

    My husband and i loved Life On Mars. It was the only show we actually sat down and watched together. The ending was crappy. I hope ABC changed their minds. The previews for the new show “The Unusuals” look dumb. Bring back Sam, Gene & the way law was fun!

  9. Harry Erik says

    I LOVE Life On Mars, Typical that it would get the cut. Nobody I know but me watches it, probably because it has NO advertising, maybe they should have worked on that before airing the show, I never knew it was gonna happen until the first episode, and I NEVER saw a commercial for it except DURING THE ACTUAL SHOW.

    Oh yes, the ending. It was horrible. It wasn’t happy, it was just stupid! I didn’t want some sci-fi crap, I thought the reason he went to 1973 was MEANINGFUL, not just some magic crystals meeting an air glitch or whatever the hell it was. The characters on the ship all felt out-of-character, Annie acted all cold and snotty, Gene was all passive, Ray was an obnoxious GOOD BUDDY kind of guy and Chris was like an extra. Lame, lame, lame. Those poor actors where probably killing themselves, the idea for the end of the British version sounds SO much better!

  10. Chris C. says

    Life on Mars was an excellent show. It was a thousand times better than ‘lost’. I am very upset. ABC, please reconsider.

  11. Lucrezia says

    I loved LOM! What is it with these networks? Every time they step out of the box and produce a winner they become nervous Nellie’s and jump right back in. At least they tried to tie up the loose ends, could’ve been better, but better than nothing. *sigh* Thanks to the wonderful cast and crew! You will be missed.

  12. Dave says

    I’m so sorry that this show was canceled so soon. It had such great potential to run a few more years, great actors. I’m sad, it was my favorite show.

  13. John R says

    I am feed up with network television now. The only two shows I have taken the time to watch have been cancelled. I was a Jericho fan it hit the fan and just when my wife and I began to make time to watch Life on Mars it endures the same fate. And you wonder why people are going to the internet and discovery channels. I have lost all faith in network television. You guys can’t see pass the reality shows along with all the other junk of tv and they stink big time!

  14. sengineer76 says

    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…. I have to laugh, because its true.

    This was a great show. A cool mystery, a meaningful love story, and well, different!
    I am sad to find out ABC canceled the show.

    The public it seems has been dumbified enough to watch crap. What a shame!

    ABC, shame on you! Really! I dont even watch much tv, and when one good show comes to life, you kill it.

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