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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

it’s official: the American ‘Life on Mars’ is coming


NEW YORK (AP) — ABC will introduce only two new series in the fall, one of them scripted, in a schedule the network admits was severely affected by the 100-day TV writers strike.

The new David E. Kelley-produced drama, “Life on Mars,” is about a police detective transported back to 1973. ABC gave it a plum Thursday time slot following “Grey’s Anatomy.”

The real Life on Mars, the British one, might well be the best television show ever made. Or at least it’s one of the very best ones I’ve ever seen. And American TV is going to screw it up. Here’s the first way it’ll get ruined: LoM is only 16 episodes in its entirety, two seasons of eight episodes apiece. Sixteen perfect hours telling a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. But American TV doesn’t know how to do that: 16 episodes isn’t even a full single season, and you can bet that David E. Kelley has a commitment from ABC to do five years, if the ratings are good enough to warrant it. Which means that the American version will start with an entirely different agenda, not to move Sam Tyler through his strange situation but to set him down in a situation that he cannot, by definition, ever get through, at least not until the tacked-on final episode when they realize they’d better wrap things up because the show’s about to be cancelled.

Also, nobody else is Sam but John Simm. I’m sorry, but that’s basic math.

Do I hope I’m wrong? Of course. But I’m afraid I won’t be.

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  • I mean, who’s the old fat guy supposed to be? Ray?

  • PaulW

    Damn, why is it the name Sam is making me think of Quantum Leap…?

  • A trailer can be found at .

  • Let’s try this again: a trailer can be found at http://blogs.thestage.co.uk/tvtoday/2008/05/lifge-on-mars-us-the-trailer/

  • SC

    No. I looked at the pictures and I watched that preview and no. It’s wrong.

    Now I need to go back and watch the real thing to erase all that wrongness from my mind.

    Just NO.

  • Kate

    No-one should EVER — upon pain of death — try to recast another actor in the role of Gene Hunt, who is without a doubt a total god and the best character on tv, ever.

  • Barb Gorczyca

    I think I’ll stick with the UK version (just look at the Blackpool/Viva Laughlin mess). Even the scenes they re-did can’t match the original.

  • This is slightly horrifying, but my relief at the destruction of McSpaced will allow me a smidge of hope that Life on Mars will be, at the very least, not awful.

  • Ryan H

    American studios are making ‘Sweded’ versions of British TV shows. It’s almost unbelievable, but that’s exactly what they are doing. Why? So that if they are successful the studio can keep dragging it out season after season until it is dead. The only other thing I can think of is that the executives honestly don’t think American audiences could handle British accents.

    What’s next? David Hasselhoff in Fox’s ‘reimagining’ of Doctor Who?


    I’m going to have nightmares about that image.

  • MaryAnn

    Damn, why is it the name Sam is making me think of Quantum Leap…?

    *LoM* is *Quantum Leap* meets *The Wizard of Oz* meets *Back to the Future.* It is absolutely the pinnacle of geeky retro coolness.

    the role of Gene Hunt, who is without a doubt a total god and the best character on tv, ever.

    Well, except for Sam Tyler.

    What’s next? David Hasselhoff in Fox’s ‘reimagining’ of Doctor Who?

    Thanks. Thanks so much for that image. I must die now.

    a trailer can be found at

    Oh god it’s even worse than I feared. It’s like a joke from SNL (and not even from the days when SNL was good). It’s totally charmless.

    Really must die now. Or move to England.

  • Tracy

    Well, I’ve seen the pics and the trailer. The US Gene Hunt looks rather listless, Sam Tyler – well just not the same, and where is Annie’s uniform?

    I don’t think this will be as much of a success as the US network thinks. The intensity isn’t there from what I’ve seen in the trailer – and it won’t work if they drag it out over 5 years. It’s an intense series of events in a relatively short space of time – not a programme that can be dragged out.

    It’s been bigged up by some American special effects. I don’t like the sequence of Sam going back to 1972 (why 72, why not 73 like the original?). All we needed was Sam’s (John’s) eyes and the clicking camera sound and we’re back in 1973 – no swirly pattern things.

    Bottom line – you can’t remake perfection!

    There is only 1 Gene Hunt, Sam Tyler and Annie

    Sorry I have low expectations of this. But could I be proved wrong? Definitely not on the Gene Hunt front I don’t think so!

  • I’m so NOT looking forward to this. It looks like Jason O’Mara is a cheap imitation of John Simm’s Sam Tyler.

    After watching the Viva Laughlin train wreck, I know this is another train wreck in the making.

    I’d rather be in England too. When are we going?

  • MaryAnn

    I dunno about you, but I’m going in September. :->

    *Viva Laughlin* haunts me in how just plain wrong it was, particularly in comparison to how just plain awesome *Blackpool* was.

  • jules w

    Well thank heavens for small mercies – it does not look like NBC is going to mess with Top Gear after all, unlike ABC with Life on Mars. I don’t know if you’ve come across it Maryann – it is a British car show that airs on BBC America, but one does not watch it for the cars, but for the brilliant humour of Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond.
    Worth checking out!

  • You mean David Tennant’s long-lost brother Richard Hammond? (You’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen him.)

  • MaryAnn

    Really? I don’t think Hammond looks much like Tennant.

    I haven’t seen *Top Gear,* but of course I heard about Hammond’s horrific accident while shooting the show.

  • jules w

    It’s funny you should mention David Tennant and Top Gear: he was a guest star on it not so long ago; apparently, he was aiming to beat Billie Piper’s time when she was a guest star.

  • jules w

    Newbs, Good news on McSpaced – Region 1 Dvds of Spaced are hitting the stores in July, apparently.

  • MaryAnn

    *Spaced* is awesome, one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Must review soon…

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