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precarious since 1997 | 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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