Life on Mars (U.S. TV series): Wikis


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Life on Mars
Life on Mars US title.svg
Life on Mars's intertitle
Genre Time travel
Police procedural
Created by Original series:
Matthew Graham
Tony Jordan
Ashley Pharoah
Developed by Josh Appelbaum
Andre Nemec
Scott Rosenberg
Starring Jason O'Mara
Harvey Keitel
Jonathan Murphy
Michael Imperioli
Gretchen Mol
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 17 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Josh Appelbaum
Andre Nemec
Scott Rosenberg
Jane Featherstone
Stephen Garrett
Producer(s) 20th Century Fox Television
ABC Studios
Jane Raab
Running time 43 minutes
Distributor Disney-ABC Domestic Television (USA)
20th Century Fox Television (non-USA)
Original channel ABC
Picture format 16:9 HDTV 1080i
Audio format 5.1 Surround Sound
Original run October 9, 2008 – April 1, 2009
Status Cancelled
Related shows Life on Mars

Life on Mars is an American science fiction crime drama television series which originally aired on ABC from October 9, 2008 to April 1, 2009. Co-produced by Kudos Film & Television, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC Studios, it is about a New York City homicide detective who suddenly finds himself inexplicably transported from 2008 to 1973. The series was remade for the American market from the original version of the BAFTA-winning British series of the same name, shown by the BBC.

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.[1] 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.[2][3] 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,[4] but later handed over production responsibilities to others.[5] The executive producers of the show are Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, and Scott Rosenberg, the producers of the ABC drama October Road.[6]

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.[7] 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".[8]

The series premiered in North America on October 9, 2008 on ABC, following Grey's Anatomy.[9] Internationally, it also aired on Global in Canada, on FX in the UK, and on Network Ten in Australia.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12]


In the original ABC pilot, Rachelle Lefevre was cast as Annie Cartwright and Colm Meaney as Gene Hunt.[13] However, in June 2008, both roles were recast in accordance with an overhaul of the series.[14] 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.[15] He was joined by Michael Imperioli, the Emmy Award-winning actor from The Sopranos as Detective Ray Carling,[16] and Harvey Keitel was cast in the role of Lieutenant Gene Hunt.[17] 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.[18] Detective Chris Skelton was played by Jonathan Murphy.[19]

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".[20]


Main characters

Producers Josh Appelbaum (left) and André Nemec (center) talk with actor Jason O'Mara (right), at Comic Con.
  • Det. Sam Tyler (Jason O'Mara) - He often finds his 2008 values in conflict with the 1973 values of his colleagues, and is forced to rely on his wits when the commonplace technologies he's used to from modern life aren't available or don't even exist yet. A Detective Second Grade,[21] Tyler is Hunt's senior ranking detective. He frequently uses pop culture references from his era as undercover aliases, such as "Luke Skywalker" (for dealing with his mother in the era, claiming it's a Navajo name), "Tom Cruise" and "Sam Bono". His BBC counterpart is DI (DCI in 2006) Sam Tyler.
  • Det. Ray Carling (Michael Imperioli) - An ambitious and bluntly macho detective with the 125th Detective Squad, he is arrogant and condescending to almost everyone but his mentor, Lt. Gene Hunt. Carling resents Tyler's arrival, having expected to be Hunt's senior detective. He is short-tempered with his demure wife. His BBC counterpart is DS Ray Carling.
  • Policewoman [promoted to Detective in the finale] Annie Norris (Gretchen Mol) - A uniformed policewoman with an undergraduate psychology education who has aspirations of making the detective squad, Norris constantly struggles against sexist attitudes about the role of a woman in police work. Owing to her gender, her nickname among the detectives is "No Nuts Norris". She is the only one on the force to whom Sam has revealed that he's from the future — although she doesn't actually believe him, she's the most willing of any of his colleagues to listen to and offer kind advice about his state of mind rather than simply dismissing him as crazy. After Sam's seemingly crazy prophecy results in him saving her life, Annie is less willing to simply dismiss his incredible stories. Annie fervently wishes to become a detective, like her comrades in the 125th; she is promoted to detective in the finale. Her BBC counterpart is WPC Annie Cartwright.
  • Det. Chris Skelton (Jonathan Murphy) - A young junior detective. He is sometimes a bit naïve about the demands of police work, but he's also much gentler, more kindhearted and more likable than Ray. He's also the most willing of the detectives to consider that as crazy as Sam may be, he does have valuable and useful skills from which the others can learn something. Unlike his older and more traditional colleagues, he's also a fan of current pop culture, including contemporary glam rock music. In the episode "Take a Look at the Lawmen" we learn his middle name is Gordon. His BBC counterpart is DC Chris Skelton.
  • Lt. Gene Hunt (Harvey Keitel) - Commander of the 125th Detective Squad, Hunt is a hardened older cop who's largely set in his ways. He accepts and even encourages the casual corruption and physical abuse rampant in the police force, although he lives by a very strict code of loyalty toward fellow officers and honor toward law-abiding citizens even if he personally dislikes them. He is often exasperated by Sam's outspoken insistence on doing things differently, but seems to have a grudging respect for Sam's crime-solving ability nonetheless. He has a long standing rivalry with a fellow police officer, Lt. Anthony Nunzio of the 144th Precinct. His BBC counterpart is DCI Gene Hunt.

Minor characters

  • Maria Hunt Belanger (Maggie Siff) - A youth social worker who assists when a young child is a witness to a crime. Although she's Gene's daughter, they have a strictly professional relationship and are largely estranged from each other on a personal level. She and Sam are immediately attracted to each other, and end up having sex in the precinct house's file room and later shows up to his address wearing nothing but a trench coat. However, Sam only later learns that she's the boss' daughter, and desperately tries to keep Gene from finding out what happened. She has no counterpart in the original BBC series.
  • Sizable Ted (John Cenatiempo) - A fellow detective, known for his strong physical appearance. He is part of Gene Hunt's 125th Detective Squad.
  • Windy (Tanya Fischer) - A free-spirited hippie neighbor of Sam's in three early episodes, who encourages him to embrace higher consciousness and makes him pot-laced lasagne. It is revealed in the final episode of the series that she is the voice of the onboard computer of the HYDE 1-2-5. Her cryptic statements often have double-meanings that can be interpreted as applying to both an issue at hand, and to Sam's confusing journey back in time; in this regard, she is the counterpart to the BBC series' barman character, Nelson.
  • Maya Daniels (Lisa Bonet) - Sam's professional and personal partner in 2008. She plays a prominent role in the first episode, when her apparent abduction leads to Sam's car accident, but in subsequent episodes she appears only occasionally in visions Sam sees of a future that may or may not be happening. Her BBC counterpart is Maya Roy.
  • Rose Tyler (Jennifer Ferrin) - Sam's mother. Struggling to make ends meet, she takes out a loan from a gangster, forcing Adult Sam to step in and protect her. Due to the situation, Sam uses the pseudonym Luke Skywalker instead of revealing his real last name to her. Her BBC counterpart is Ruth Tyler.
  • Vic Tyler (Dean Winters) - Sam's father in 1973. Sam discovers some disturbing information about Vic, as well as the real reason he disappeared on Sam's fourth birthday. His BBC counterpart is Vic Tyler.
  • Detective/Captain Fletcher Bellow (Edi Gathegi) - A young, African-American detective in another squad, who will be Sam's mentor and Captain in the future and Sam looks up to him as the father he never had. He and Sam cooperate on an investigation into Black militants. He is referred to by his nickname, "Clams," in both 2008 and 1973. His BBC counterpart is DC Glenn Fletcher.
  • Agent Franklin Morgan[22] (Peter Gerety) - Sent to the 125th Precinct from FBI headquarters when Sam's infiltration of an Irish-American gang ends disastrously, Agent Morgan hints that he knows that Sam has been displaced in time, but Morgan has secrets of his own. His BBC counterpart is DCI Frank Morgan. While not mentioned, his line to Sam, "You weren't supposed to peek behind the curtain," in the 16th episode is a reference to "The Wizard of Oz". Frank Morgan was also the name of the actor who played the Wizard in the movie. Morgan is also the director of Mission Control in the last episode of the series.
  • Colin Raimes (Michael Bertolini) - Suspected serial killer. Sam and Maya are hunting down Raimes for kidnapping and murdering young women. After a chase and a fight scene, he is apprehended, but released because of a seemingly solid alibi. Maya trails him in the park and she is abducted. Sam races to Raimes' apartment, and as he crosses the street, he is hit by a car and wakes up in 1973.
  • Mysterious caller on the phone - At the end of "The Man Who Sold the World", Sam went to a house to look for a way home to 2008. When he arrived, a man rang him on the house telephone and led him to a headless body. This man is a member of Aries Project, and in the series finale offered Sam a chance to go home.


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 cohabitates with his girlfriend and coworker, Detective Maya Daniels. Maya, to Tyler’s horror, is kidnapped by a murderer they are investigating. In the midst of the fiasco, Tyler is hit by a speeding 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. 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.

Several of the show's plots involve Sam looking into earlier versions of his cases from 2008, such as in "Out Here in the Fields" where he discovers the sociopath mentor of a future serial killer, and in "The Simple Secret of the Note in Us All" where Sam has the opportunity to stop a serial killer early in his career. Additional storylines are driven by the conflict between Sam's 2008 values and the more corrupt, almost vigilante-style policing of the era he finds himself in, while others are driven by Sam's discovery of more personal information about his past in this era that radically reshapes his understanding of the life he's left behind. Surreal visions and cryptic telephone calls give him confusing connections to 2008. He engages in an ongoing struggle to figure out what has happened to him, torn between his developing relationships in 1973 and his desire to return to 2008.

At the end of the series, it is revealed that Tyler's 2008 and 1973 realities were both fictitious, created by the onboard computer of a spacecraft that is carrying Tyler, Hunt, Norris, Carling, and Skelton on the first ever manned mission to the planet Mars, in 2035. The crew he worked with in 1973 were just virtual reality versions of his fellow spaceship crewmembers. His room number, "2B", is his sleeping unit; his old precinct, "Hyde", and his new precinct, the "125", are based on the name of the spacecraft - "Hyde 125"; his neighbor, Windy, is the name of the computer A.I.; Frank Morgan, an FBI agent in the series, is the Mission Control flight director. To sustain the crew, their minds were routinely kept active while asleep using virtual reality "neural stimulation" programs of their own choosing, but Sam's choice of a scenario where he was a police officer circa 2008 was abruptly changed to a 1973 setting by a meteor-storm induced glitch in the computer. This conclusion is markedly different from the conclusion of the original UK series, but is still left ambiguous as the first step on Mars depicts Gene Hunt's signature shoe stepping into the sand.

In a a twist, Gene Hunt in 1973 turns out to be Astronaut 'Major Tom' Tyler - Sam's father - in the conclusion. Just as Maria was estranged to Gene in 1973, Sam was estranged to his father until the very end of the series, when he reconciles with his dad before they step out onto the bare ground of the Red Planet.


# Episode Rating Share Rating/Share
Air date
1 "Out Here in the Fields" 8.2 14 3.8/10 11.33 #3 #15 (tied) 10/9/2008
2 "The Real Adventures of the Unreal Sam Tyler" 5.7 10 2.7/7 8.47 #8 TBA 10/16/2008
3 "My Maharishi is Bigger Than Your Maharishi" TBA 9 2.5/7 8.06 #11 TBA 10/23/2008
4 "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In the Shadows?" 5.7 10 2.7/8 8.41 #8 TBA 10/30/2008
5 "Things to Do in New York When You Think You're Dead" 6.0 10 3.0/8 9.62 #8 TBA 11/6/2008
6 "Tuesday's Dead" 6.0 10 2.9/8 8.94 #8 TBA 11/13/2008
7 "The Man Who Sold the World" 5.3 9 2.6/7 7.97 #9 TBA 11/20/2008
8 "Take a Look at the Lawmen" 4.0 7 2.3/6 8.89 #7 TBA 1/28/2009
9 "The Dark Side of the Mook" 3.7 6 2.3/5 6.02 #5 TBA 2/4/2009
10 "Let All the Children Boogie" 3.0 5 2.0/6 5.14 TBA TBA 2/11/2009
11 "Home is Where You Hang Your Holster" 3.5 6 2.1/6 5.78 #7 TBA 2/18/2009
12 "The Simple Secret of The Note In Us All" 3.2 5 2.0/6 5.55 #8 TBA 2/25/2009
13 "Revenge of Broken Jaw" 3.5 6 2.1/6 5.66 #6 TBA 3/4/2009
14 "Coffee, Tea, or Annie" 3.0 4 1.5/4 4.58 #13 TBA 3/11/2009
15 "All the Young Dudes" 3.3 6 2.0/6 5.27 #11 TBA 3/18/2009
16 "Everyone Knows It's Windy" 3.5 6 2.1/6 5.67 #8 TBA 3/25/2009
17 "Life Is a Rock" 3.6 6 2.1/6 5.86 #7 TBA 4/1/2009


  1. ^ Matthew Gilbert (2008-10-09). "Time warp twists a police procedural". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  2. ^ Alessandra Stanley (2008-10-08). "Imports Suffering Identity Problems". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  3. ^ Dorothy Rabinowitz (2008-10-31). "Out in the Past". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  4. ^ Deans, Jason (2006-03-28). "Life on Mars goes stateside" (Requires free registration). Guardian Unlimited.,,1741413,00.html. Retrieved 2006-03-28. 
  5. ^ Steinberg, Jacques; Elliott, Stuart (2008-05-13). "ABC Fall Roster Is Heavy on the Already Proven". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-13. 
  6. ^ "Life on Mars - Fall Schedule". Retrieved 2008-10-02. 
  7. ^ "Hollywood Productions Moving East". IMDb News. 2008-06-03. Retrieved 2008-10-02. 
  8. ^ "Life on Mars remake changes Tyler's story". Digital Spy. 2008-07-19. Retrieved 2008-10-02. 
  9. ^ Schneider, Michael (2008-05-13). "ABC announces fall schedule". Variety. Retrieved 2008-05-13. 
  10. ^ "Global's Fall Schedule: Spies, Time-Travel and Spoiled Teens". Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  11. ^ Kevin McDonough (United Media) (2009-01-28). "TUNE IN TONIGHT: 'Mars' hopes to survive the New York competition". Reading Eagle. Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Irish actors set for Mars remake". BBC News. 2007-08-16. Retrieved 2007-08-16. 
  14. ^ Dos Santos, Kristin (June 23, 2008). "Spoiler Chat: Heroes, Daisies, Gossip and More". E! Online. Retrieved 2008-06-28. 
  15. ^ "Irish actor to star in Life on Mars in US". RTÉ News. June 29, 2007. 
  16. ^ O'Neil, Tom (July 7, 2008). "Michael Imperioli boosts Emmy hopes of U.S. version of Brit hit 'Life on Mars'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  17. ^ Mitovich, Matt (2008-07-24). "Scoop! Keitel Lands on Mars as Homicide Boss". TV Guide. 
  18. ^ Ausiello, Michael (August 1, 2008). "Exclusive: Lisa Bonet Sentenced to 'Life on Mars'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2008-08-02. 
  19. ^ "About the Show". ABC Official Website. 
  20. ^ Duncan, Andrew (March 31, 2007). "Phillip Glenister interview". Radio Times. 
  21. ^ Tyler's rank is stated by a jealous Ray Carling in Episode 1.
  22. ^ Jersild, Sarah (March 25, 2009). "Life on Mars: Friend or figment?". Retrieved 2009-03-30. 

External links

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