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No one knows what's going on with the Life On Mars remake

by Bob Sassone, posted Jun 2nd 2008 5:18PM

Life on Mars

I was watching a Red Sox game last week (yes, stay with me here, this really does have something to do with Life on Mars) and they had Lenny Clarke in the booth as a guest. He shows up from time to time, usually with Denis Leary (they're both from Boston) and riff on everything for an inning or two. The two announcers asked Clarke what he was working on and he mentioned that he was in the pilot for the ABC remake of the British series but didn't know if he was going to be in the rest of the series. He didn't really know what was happening with the show.

He's not the only one.

The L.A. Times tried to get to the bottom of rumors and gossip swirling about the show. Allison told you recently about producer David E. Kelley's departure from the show, and the LAT tried to find out if that was true or not. No such luck. They had an interview with Kelley, but it was pushed back and they missed the deadline. Then his agent was available, but that talk had to be off the record. The only thing known for sure is that the show's production has moved from L.A. to New York (along with Ugly Betty).

So, no one really knows if Kelley will stick after the show after the pilot. We also don't know if they're even going to keep the pilot. They might throw it away and start from scratch with new cast members. Or they might keep the pilot and change a few things about it. In other words, stay tuned.

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Allison Solow

Based on the brief snippets shown by ABC so far, I'm betting that the pilot will be re-shot in total. The original is wonderful and cannot be equalled, but like The Office, the US version of Life on Mars could be something special. It won't be the same, but that's a good thing. The original remains and is available on DVD (I think) if you didn't get to see it on BBCA. Count me as one who hopes ABC gets it together and makes this work.

June 03 2008 at 12:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Linda

I for one love TV shows from the UK. One reason is the great actors who seem to be willing to do any type of role no matter the size, unlike our prima donnas (donni?) over here who make unbelievable salaries and still come off wooden half the time. This series was simply great because it only lasted the two seasons and then ended exactly the right way. Over here they would drag it out until everyone gets sick of it and then end it mid-season with no explanation.

June 03 2008 at 10:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David Marcoe

"We did see it in the States. It was on cable. That's how I, as an American, know how good it is."

BBC America ran it, yes, but it's not a "basic" cable channel, so even those with cable may or may not have it, depending upon their package. So, yes, some Americans saw it (such as myself), but that audience is relatively small.

"Right now, ABC has Steve McPherson at its helm, somebody who recently has kept cult shows going, canceled most of the crap on the schedule ("According To Jim" notwithstanding) and has taken some great chances with innovative shows."

That's all well and good, but I wasn't talking about producers, but the executives who have a habit of offsetting their intelligent choices with resolute idiocy. Nonetheless, I will concede that a good portion of their recent choices have been sound, but not enough to inspire trust. It is a tenuous state of affairs and for every good decision, one can point out the old habits rearing their ugly heads once again.

"British television is government-funded, at least in part. Television networks are run completely differently, so to compare the two is fairly pointless."

So a difference in funding makes any comparison, whatsoever, worthless? HBO is an entirely private venture, but they're on par with the BBC in terms of content. Public funding does not instantly equate to quality. In most cases, it tends to lead to the opposite.

"American television is a business..."

A business which is, itself, a heavily regulated industry where broadcast networks have de facto monopoly(high barriers to market entry, plus micromanagement of the spectrum by the FCC), with the corresponding lack of competition, leading to a decrease in the effort to put quality content on the air. Only with the rise of New Media has the formula shifted, forcing the networks to actually be proactive in attracting audiences with quality content.

"...and the American public will not watch a heavily-accented British show that only ran 16 episodes (that's only two-thirds of a regular American season)."

Has anyone ever actually tried? Top Gear (heavily-accented, short seasons) has a large cult following in the US, mostly from clips and episodes being circulated online. And as you pointed out, you, I, and other Americans who saw the show enjoyed it, so that is at least some indication that it might have a wider audience here.

"But I will point out one similarity between American and British television -- reality television. Britain (and much of the entire TV-watching world) has reality programming, both good and bad. Ever tried to slog through their version of Big Brother or Deal or No Deal (which was there before it was ever in America)? Their old Pop Idol or X Factor? At least American reality television has some semblance of narrative and production value."

True enough, but they have things like "Life on Mars" to offset the insipidities. American audiences have had to proactively campaign keep shows on the air.

June 02 2008 at 8:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BillS

First, from the little teaser they showed during Lost (I think), it looked pretty awful. I'll still give it a shot, because I enjoyed the original, and some of the people involved are pretty good, but from that little 10 second thing, it looked dreadful.

Second, what's wrong with remaking a show like this? The many many references to 70s English culture will be off-putting to American audiences, not to mention the accents and slang that can sometimes be tough to follow. I'm the type of person that doesn't mind that, but why not try to make a version for American audiences? It doesn't detract in any way from the original, and might cause people to seek out the BBC version who otherwise would have never heard of it? I never would have checked out the original Office had I not enjoyed the US version.

June 02 2008 at 7:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark Adams

David-
You got all that right!! Nothing needs to be added.

June 02 2008 at 7:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David Marcoe

"They should remake it because it's a brilliant show that deserves another go-round for a new audience, with the ability to have more episodes and a different take.

This is confusing?"

The whole point is that *it's a brilliant show.* We don't get to see that brilliant show here in the States. Instead, we have to endure the anxiety of wondering whether or not the hit-or-miss process of American remakes is going to give us something of equal quality or if it's going to be butchered. Let's face it, the broadcast networks here have a very mixed record in that regard. They force feed us reality TV schlock, regardless of ratings. They cancel or bury inspired shows in obscure time slots to kill them, replacing the packaged stupidity of shows like "Cavemen." And where they don't cancel, they slash budgets and breath down the necks of writers to make sure they shoehorn in their quota of stock plot points to carefully composed story arcs, all in an attempt to pull one last bit of money from a slowly failing business model. A failure which is caused by a lack of plain common sense; they fail to watch, with the eye of an audience member, what they put on the air, so the whole process of launching a show is a less than 50/50, burning through one bad idea after the next, all in a desperate attempt to find the next "Lost" or "24."

On the whole, I would rather see the the brilliant original than being pandered to by a bunch of incompetent executives with their heads resting comfortably in their asses...

June 02 2008 at 7:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to David Marcoe's comment
MarcDom7

We did see it in the States. It was on cable. That's how I, as an American, know how good it is.

Right now, ABC has Steve McPherson at its helm, somebody who recently has kept cult shows going, canceled most of the crap on the schedule ("According To Jim" notwithstanding) and has taken some great chances with innovative shows.

British television is government-funded, at least in part. Television networks are run completely differently, so to compare the two is fairly pointless. American television is a business, and the American public will not watch a heavily-accented British show that only ran 16 episodes (that's only two-thirds of a regular American season).

But I will point out one similarity between American and British television -- reality television. Britain (and much of the entire TV-watching world) has reality programming, both good and bad. Ever tried to slog through their version of Big Brother or Deal or No Deal (which was there before it was ever in America)? Their old Pop Idol or X Factor? At least American reality television has some semblance of narrative and production value.

June 02 2008 at 8:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MarcDom7

They should remake it because it's a brilliant show that deserves another go-round for a new audience, with the ability to have more episodes and a different take.

This is confusing?

June 02 2008 at 6:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Edd

What's going on? I am mad, in a coma, or have I travelled back in time?

Tbh they should just show the original, it's done pretty damn well.

June 02 2008 at 6:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
adhonus

Why not remake it in England with American actors playing all the parts?

June 02 2008 at 6:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to adhonus's comment
khamel

couldn't afford the exchange rate.

June 02 2008 at 6:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MarcDom7

DaveTehWave, if it's a good show, it shouldn't matter where it came from.

June 02 2008 at 6:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to MarcDom7's comment
Akbar Fazil

But why even remake it? The original show is great and does not need to be remade at all.

June 02 2008 at 6:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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