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.

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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. Pat says

    My husband and I are also very upset about the cancellation of Life on Mars. I really do not understand why the good shows are cancelled and the stupid ones get to stay on (I won’t mention any) I mean really!!! there are some really stupid, dysfunctional, perverted shows on this season. Shows that families can sit down and watch together are a thing of the past. I guess this is a sign of where this country is headed. Makes me feel angry that my grandchildren really only have the Disney channel to watch, and we can only take so much of Hannah Montana and Zack and Cody. I know that Life on Mars was not really a childs show, but my point is that why take it off and leave or bring new trash on.

  2. Debbye says

    I really loved LIFE ON MARS, I was hoping it would be renewed even after they tried to give us some closure with the futuristic ending ….

    Maybe the ‘suits’ at ABC will see that there is a call for this kind of show and bring it back.

  3. says

    I was deeply upset the show was cancelled. And also if anyone ripped anything off as far as ideas it was the UK from us. This show reminded me in a way of Quantum Leap which was a fantastic show and it always left you wondering and interested and it was believable such as this. My feelings are honestly hurt this show is no longer on, I loved it. I dont think ABC gave it the chance it deserved, look at Jay lenos first 2 seasons after Carson. But they grew to luv him!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Also awesome groovy 70s clothing thats coming back was often featured.

  4. says

    To Mr. Gadsen,

    Guess what, lets see here.

    We declared independence from your tyrant, yet reluctantly helped you defeat the Kaiser, and then later the Nazis. Well, we did it FOR you.

    The BLITZ, I wished those Ju-88’s firebombs your grandfather you tard.

    You owe us so much, you you rip us off you british eurotrash. I mean honestly, look at what your Channel 4 has to offer.

    I mean honestly, you still cannot even control North Ireland, the Falkin Islands! ha! Failure, India will surrpase you by 1000% in GDP, and Wealth in little than 10 years, as you ban more and more… you cannot even have a Jaguar without getting carbon taxed! HAHAH

    Freedom, where is it in the UK?

    Mr Gadsed, do us a favor, and go get whipped by a ugly as british woman with ugly ass teeth, dressed as a Japanese school girl…

  5. Mr Gadsden says

    Dan Says:
    June 9th, 2009 at 1:28 am
    Stop ripping off UK programz ******* hell USA get your own ideas thank god it is cancelled

    You’re an idiot, little boy. USA has plenty of it’s own ideas. Not to mention, we have a long history of doing better at things Britain has tried to succeed at. Life On Mars was a perfect example! Why don’t you go back to school and learn proper grammar?

    …………………Life On Mars was an excellent show, I’m angry it’s gone.

  6. Tim says

    I loved the show. It was a fresh twist on the same old cop shows that are on all the time. I enjoy the serious cops shows but it was a wonderful twist that this show took. I would applaud the ABC executives for putting on such unique programming except they cancelled this show. With all the useless TV shows out there these so called excutives seem to take off the more interesting things.. maybe not so mainstream.

    I was not aware of this being a take off from the UK show. I didn’t watch the UK show but I feel that this show was a hit in my option. I am very sad to see it go and its part of the reason why I just don’t like to watch new shows because I know they are going to get cancelled.

    I know that I made a special connection to the show due to the time frame that it was set in. I could see where the younger people of today couldn’t relate to it as it didn’t have super high tech computers solving crimes and all, instead it was very much like a lot of the shows I watched as young person. Very actor/writer oriented . I havve to give a big shout out to the sound folks as I LOVED the music in the show.

    All I can say is.. I truly enjoyed the show and appreciate the writers and actors for what they have produced.

  7. michael says

    two words “baby boomers” this brought back wonderful times. this was a look at how some things have improved and how some things should truly be handled today. i.e. technology can really help in today’s world to catch the bad guys. once we have them treatment in the 70’s was a bit more persuasive and hit home pardon the pun.

  8. Marts says

    From Australia – this was my favourite show – I’ve just watched the airing of the final episode and am feeling relieved that I have closure with an ending but was really hoping for more. I am going to miss Sammy Tyler and co! Please bring them back!

  9. Drew says

    I loved this show. I can’t believe such a good show got cancelled. With the stuff I see coming back season after season. The network finally gets a classy, funny, heart warming and sometimes sad weekly that develops the characters, pokes fun at life, and leaves you waiting until next week…..and it gets cancelled!!! The music was great and we reminisced about a time gone by; the characters were funny and sometimes intense; the story line was always interesting. I thought this would pick up steam and get even better, over time. The final episode was terrible. Bring it back, make that episode a bad dream and continue on with a 1st class production.

  10. says

    I loved life on mars. It was one of the best shows with original ideas on television. I am dissapointed and felt the show deserved to played to the end. i did not like the last episode, but the show was great

  11. Teresa says

    ABC… WHY? Did you dump a good show??? U keep those stupid shows. What a shame, Abc sucks, lets go watch CBS!

  12. monika says

    Bring it back! I didn’t know it was getting cancelled until it didn’t show up after Lost last week. I was even looking forward to an Apollo 13/ meets Lost/Remington Steele. All the shows with intellectual appeal keep getting cut. Instead we get more dumbed-down reality TV which I leave the room for. I don’t want to be around those people in real life, why would I want them in my bedroom? Producers need to look at the demographic that is watching these more thoughtful shows….I do all the shopping for my family and I watch this after my kid goes to sleep. Our demographic may be smaller, but more useful/attractive to advertisers.

  13. scott L says

    loved the show but missed the final episode, figures the network would cancel 1 of the few shows I truly like ********

  14. Godfather JAM says

    Really liked the show. Good job on acting, and retro set production. A least never got a chance to get bored with it and never hit the ‘drag on’ point. Ending was so-so. Very happy to have it get a proper ending but seemed tacky and oversimplified compared to everything else.

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