US “Life on Mars” Gets Cancelled

So much for having a longer life than the original. ABC has decided to cancel the US remake of British 70’s-set time-travel cop TV series “Life on Mars” after a single season reports the trades.

Unlike other prematurely cancelled shows however, the network has allowed the show to air through until the end of its 17-episode run, giving the producers the chance to sign the show off with a proper finale that will wrap up the series core mystery.

Though not as critically lauded as the more offbeat and compelling 2006-launched British series it was based on, the US incarnation has been deemed as one of the few trans-Atlantic series adaptations that actually made the transition successfully (ala “The Office”).

Acclaim however does not translate into ratings. Despite starting with a strong near eleven million viewership, subsequent episodes and gross mishandling by the network have whittled that number down by 50%. Combined with the cost of doing an admittedly expensive period-set show, the numbers just didn’t justify the expense.

The other question was of course longevity. The British original, which many of the US episodes have so far cribbed very heavily off, ran for sixteen hour-long episodes. The US incarnation may have one extra episode, but at the network standard 43 minutes long each, the actual amount of screen time will be less than that of the UK original – something no-one expected.

Five more episodes of the US “Life on Mars” remain to screen and will continue to air in coming weeks before being replaced by “The Unusuals” in April. The big question now is will the makers follow the controversial but satisfying ending of the British original.

The news also comes just days before the March 7th US debut on BBC America of the first season of “Ashes to Ashes”, the follow-up spin-off series to the original ‘Mars’. This one involves DI Alex Drake (Keely Hawes) similarly caught in an accident and waking up in 1981 where Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) is still around and up to his old un-PC crime-busting ways.

Lighter and more casual than its grittier predecessor, ‘Ashes’ took a while to find its feet but did so and ended with an excellent season finale last year in the UK. The second season of ‘Ashes’ is scheduled to kick off in the UK in April.