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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

American ‘Life on Mars’ crashing and burning

I’d love to say “I told you so.” Oh, wait: I did.

Thanks to reader Proper Dave who pointed out in comments this disturbing news of the already disturbing American remake of the BBC series Life on Mars:

It’s quite common for series producers to replace actors after shooting a pilot and getting feedback…. However, it’s much rarer for the whole cast to be fired, which is what has happened with ABC’s remake of Life On Mars. Well, almost the whole cast. They are apparently keeping star Jason O’Mara, despite lukewarm initial reviews of his performance as Sam Tyler.

Oh, man. They dumped Colm Meaney and kept O’Mara? Why would they do that?

But it gets worse:

And, as TV Scoop reports, they are “expanding” the original series’ “mythology.”

So, basically, they’re gonna take everything that was great about the original — which is among the greatest television series ever — and they’re gonna futz with it. Why would they do that?

There’s more. It ain’t pretty.

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  • angel

    I honestly have no idea what to make of this. The series is so specifically British and the performances are so indelible that I can’t imagine why anyone would think it would translate.

    However, if one MUST recast this nearly perfect show, Colm Meaney seems an ideal choice while Jason O’Mara, who I’ve liked on The Closer, seems completely wrong.

    And now to hear that the mythology is changing because… why, again?

    I’ll probably watch when/if the first episode airs – the not being able to turn away from a traffic accident will be too strong. But as a substitute for Philip Glenister and John Simm. I scoff!

  • Ryan H

    Look, they are screwing with it because, for all its qualities, it has one major problem from the point of view of an American network. There are only 16 episodes in existence.

    See, that’s no good at all. It’s sort of a lose-lose situation in fact. After spending all that money advertising it it either flops, in which case the money is wasted, or (god forbid) it becomes really popular.

    And what to do if it becomes popular lies at the heart of the executive’s worst nightmare. The series is already in the can. They can’t order it to tread water for a season or two like Lost. And they can’t have them repackage season 1 and hope nobody notices like Heroes. They can’t even turn it into a CSI situation of the week.

    And that is simply not how things are done on this side of the pond. Lesson one in the executive handbook says that no show can leave the air until its very husk has been sucked dry of any profitability or marketing opportunity. So, the thought that this one is done when it is done must be truly horrifying.

    And they won’t replace O’Mara due to the risk of getting someone competent. Can’t have those uppity actors refusing to continue the show just because the soul died two seasons ago.

  • Mo

    “With their permission we are changing the mythology each week, deepening the mystery of what’s going on with him. Has he traveled through time? Or lost his mind? Or he’s in a coma? For us there are many more options there.”

    That’s actually the first thing I’ve read about it that’s given me hope. There’s a couple million ways they could do that wrong, but there’s one or two ways I can think of that they could actually do it right and end up with an interesting, suspenseful show. It would be a very different show, but it would be closer to the core idea of what the original show was about. That’s still one in a million odds, though.

    Fingers crossed this will be the excuse to finally release a region 1 DVD.

  • The BBC America story has a link to TV Scoop, which contains more depressing news:

    Apparently, in episode two Sam will sketch out on a blackboard 12 different scenarios of what’s happened to him, with a question mark on the 13th scenario. So does this mean each episode will represent one scenario?

    Producers have also said that the Annie character will be changed.

    “It’s one thing to be in the police department in Manchester, England, and another to be in the police department in New York in 1973. That requires a whole other character. She has this strength and determination to endure the ferocity that surrounds her. She’s got to be more connected to the women’s liberation movement. In our version she’s more outspoken than she was in the BBC version.”

  • “It’s one thing to be in the police department in Manchester, England, and another to be in the police department in New York in 1973. That requires a whole other character. She has this strength and determination to endure the ferocity that surrounds her. She’s got to be more connected to the women’s liberation movement. In our version she’s more outspoken than she was in the BBC version.”

    If you saw the first pilot they finished, you’d realize what total bunk that quote is. Annie was just a prop for Hero Cop Sam Tyler to illustrate his brilliant insights. It’s still out there if you know where to look.

    Maybe things will change for the recast pilot… But I think we all know how unlikely that is.

  • I feared something like this might happen. I was prepared to have the distinctly British Manchester replaced by an equally distinctly American Detroit. I was prepared to have The Bill and The Sweeny proxies replaced by proxies of Kojak, Baretta, and the Streets of San Francisco.

    I wasn’t absolutely convinced that Sam was in a coma. Not 100%. There was always the possibility that there was something else going on. The ambiguity of his situation was part of the attraction of the show for me. So increasing the ambiguity of Sam’s paradox isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

    Where I am losing confidence in this project is the need to make it more than a one-season 22 episode run. I’d rather that they do just as they did in the original series and *spoiler* have Sam jump off a building to go back to the world of his mind *End Spoiler* in the last episode so that the series can continue.

    From there, the fight to stay in the past can become a plot element.

  • Barb Gorczyca

    Well all I can see is that I will absolutely not even look at this remake. The original series is pure classic and Americanizing it into a 22 episode season show will ruin the overall concept. What also made it unique is the setting. Sorry, but I’m tiring of seeing the same cities used in shows (e.g., NYC, Chicago, LA, etc.) and having Brits having to use American accents instead of their normal accents. Instead of remaking them just show the original UNCUT Brit version on prime time or even better, a premium cable station.

    Also, take a look at the movie Tell No One in which the movie changed the setting from New Jersey along with changing characters (and their names)to fit the French production. Essentially, only the concept was left from the Harlan Cobin book and nothing more which ruined the story for me.

  • MaryAnn

    all I can see is that I will absolutely not even look at this remake.

    Oh, but how can you not?! It’s gonna be like a train wreck — I won’t be able to look away.

  • Barb Gorczyca

    A train wreck like Viva Laughlin (a big joke).

  • MaryAnn

    Sure. But *Laughlin* was so appalling awful that if you hadn’t watched it, you’d never have guessed that anyone would dare put that on television.

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