Life on Mars [US]
Life on Mars (US)


Life on Mars is a science fiction crime drama television series which originally aired on ABC from October 9, 2008 to April 1, 2009. It is an adaptation of the BAFTA-winning original UK series of the same name produced by the BBC. The series was co-produced by Kudos Film & Television, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC Studios.


The series tells the story of New York City police detective Sam Tyler (played by Jason O'Mara), who, after being struck by a car in 2008, regains consciousness in 1973. Fringing between multiple genres, including thriller, science fiction and police procedural, the series remained ambiguous regarding its central plot, with the character himself unsure about his situation. The series also starred Harvey Keitel, Jonathan Murphy, Michael Imperioli, and Gretchen Mol.


Life on Mars garnered critical praise for its premise, acting, and depiction of the 1970s but suffered from a declining viewership after its premiere and a two-month hiatus. ABC announced on March 2, 2009 that it would not be ordering a second season. A DVD set of the complete series was released on September 29, 2009.




David E. Kelley was the initial writer and executive producer of the series pilot, but later handed over production responsibilities to others. The executive producers of the show were Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, and Scott Rosenberg, the producers of the ABC drama October Road.


After reviewing the pilot episode, ABC ordered an overhaul. Several members of the cast and crew were replaced, with production moved from Los Angeles to New York to allow producers to take advantage of recently enacted local and state tax credits for shows filmed in that state. The setting of the series was also changed from Los Angeles to New York, taking place at the fictional 125th precinct of the New York City Police Department (NYPD).


The script was rewritten, with permission of the original creators, to remove the "unsatisfying" ambiguity of Sam's story in favor of a "mythological element" and "deeper mystery".


The series premiered in North America on October 9, 2008, on ABC, following Grey's Anatomy. Internationally, it also aired on Global in Canada, on FX in the UK, and on Network Ten in Australia. On November 20, 2008, ABC ordered four additional episodes to the show's original thirteen episodes. After its winter hiatus, the series was shifted to a Wednesday night timeslot on January 28, 2009, following Lost.


On March 2, 2009, it was announced that ABC would not be ordering a second season. The cancellation decision came early enough to allow producers time to wrap up the show's storyline. The network aired all 17 episodes ordered, with the final episode airing April 1, 2009.




In the original ABC pilot, Rachelle Lefevre was cast as Annie Cartwright and Colm Meaney as Gene Hunt. However, in June 2008, both roles were recast in accordance with an overhaul of the series. After revisions by the producers, Jason O'Mara, in the lead role of Detective Sam Tyler, was the only actor kept from the original ABC pilot. He was joined by Michael Imperioli, the Emmy Award-winning actor from The Sopranos as Detective Ray Carling, and Harvey Keitel was cast in the role of Lieutenant Gene Hunt. Gretchen Mol played Tyler's 1973 co-worker, Annie Norris. Lisa Bonet, formerly of The Cosby Show, was cast as Tyler's present-day love interest, Maya Daniels, replacing Stephanie Chaves-Jacobsen. Detective Chris Skelton was played by Jonathan Murphy.


Philip Glenister and John Simm, stars of the UK version, had been approached for lead roles in the series, but had turned them down, partly due to family commitments, and in Glenister's case partly due to a fear of becoming "a nutter in The Priory"


Opening Premise:


The series centers around Detective Sam Tyler, assigned to the 125th Precinct Detective Squad of the New York City Police Department.


At the show's outset in 2008, he cohabits with his girlfriend who is also his NYPD assigned partner, Detective Maya Daniels. Maya, to Tyler's horror, is kidnapped by a murderer they are investigating. While responding to a lead in Maya's kidnapping, Tyler is distracted and hit by another responding speeding police car. He regains consciousness in the same spot in the year 1973, dressed in period civilian attire, carrying a period-accurate identity card with his badge, and equipped with a vintage automobile, a 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle — and, astonishingly, he's parked within sight of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.


He returns to his precinct house to find an unfamiliar early-1970s police squad, with contemporary equipment and culture which he likens to finding himself on a different planet. However, the detectives have been expecting him, thinking that he is a transfer from a place called "Hyde". His disorientation and frequent reference to things from the future brand him as eccentric, being labeled with the nickname "Spaceman", but he becomes a valued member of the squad. Later on in the series, with Sam supposedly in a coma in 2008, Maya decided to end the relationship......


Recurring Themes:


  • David Bowie — Named for one of Bowie's most famous songs, "Life on Mars?", Sam's journey back in time to 1973 is accompanied by this single. Bowie is referenced in a number of episodes besides the first one, including Episode 13, where a deceased activist from the Weathermen Underground and his illicit daughter have Bowie's eyes (of different colors). In Episode 17, Gene Hunt's 2035 character is Major Tom Tyler, a reference to Bowie's song "Space Oddity". He is also referenced by Windy in the last episode of the series ("David Bowie asked me to move to Spain with him and raise praying mantises"). The name of Episode 15, "All The Young Dudes", is a song that David Bowie wrote for Mott the Hoople.


  • The Wizard of Oz — Like Dorothy in the The Wizard of Oz, Sam finds himself in a strange world, always trying to find the way home. In Episode 11, Sam finds another man who says he is from 2009 and has suddenly found himself back in 1973, and "finds the way back home." Judy Garland's "Over the Rainbow" is played throughout this episode.


  • Presidency of the United States — Sam's initial reality was depicted as contemporary with the show's real world debut, which coincided with the 2008 presidential election campaign; in several early episodes, Sam's temporal disjunction was depicted in part by his seeing photos of, or hearing the voice of, George W. Bush. In an early 2009 episode, Sam meets a New York city councillor who reveals that he's also from the future, and informs him of the election of Barack Obama; he later has a vision of part of Obama's election night victory speech. In the final episode's 2035 reality, it is implied that Malia Obama is the incumbent president.
Life On Mars (US)

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Season 1 [The Complete Series]


1.01 Out Here in the Fields
1.02 The Real Adventures of the Unreal Sam Tyler
1.03 My Maharishi is Bigger than Your Maharishi

Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby,

Standing in the Shadows?


Things to Do in New York When You Think

You're Dead

1.06 Tuesday's Dead
1.07 The Man Who Sold the World
1.08 Take a Look at the Lawmen
1.09 The Dark Side of the Mook
1.10 Let All the Children Boogie
1.11 Home is Where You Hang Your Holster
1.12 The Simple Secret of the Note in Us All
1.13 Revenge of Broken Jaw
1.14 Coffee, Tea or Annie
1.15 All the Young Dudes
1.16 Everyone Knows It's Windy
1.17 Life is a Rock


Life On Mars (US)

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