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'Life on Mars' producers grateful to have closure

March 5, 2009 |  4:16 pm

Writer-producers Andre Nemec, Josh Appelbaum and Scott Rosenberg know firsthand what it’s like to leave fans hanging when a series is abruptly canceled. That’s what happened with their last show, “October Road,” which ABC yanked off the air last year before viewers learned the answer to the show’s central question: Was Nick, the prodigal writer who returned to his hometown, the father of his ex-girlfriend’s son? They ultimately resorted to shooting an epilogue on home video for the DVD boxed set to finish the story.

So as much as they’re disappointed that “Life on Mars,” their latest drama, will not be coming back next season, the executive producers are relieved that they learned the show’s fate in time to give the series a proper ending.

“We’ve felt from the beginning that if the show wasn’t going to get its legs for a second season, nothing would have been more of a gift from the network and the studio than to give us the opportunity to find the creative closure a lot of shows don’t get,” Nemec said. “It’s all a bit sad, but it doesn’t come without its closure and its finality.”

The producers got a call earlier this week from ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson, who told them that “Life on Mars” would not go on to a sophomore season. The news didn’t come as a total surprise.

“We were struggling a bit with our numbers,” Nemec said. “It didn’t seem like we were getting that slow, steady climb every week.”

The crew had just started prepping to shoot the last episode of the season, so the producers quickly went into overdrive to make it a fitting series finale.

“We did go into a bit of a mad dash of rewriting to adjust stories,” Nemec said. “It was heartbreaking to have to write it and simultaneously cathartic to be able to do it.”

The writers are determined to provide a fitting conclusion to the story of Sam Tyler (Jason O'Mara), a modern-day police detective who suddenly finds himself back in 1973 after getting hit by a car. The series is based on a BBC show, but Nemec said the ABC series will not offer the same explanation for Tyler’s situation as the British version, in which the detective was in a coma. He’s not sure whether viewers will be surprised by the answer, but he hopes they will be satisfied.

“If you’ve been watching the show and paying attention, I think in the last frame you’ll find yourself saying that we didn’t cheat you,” Nemec said.

— Matea Gold

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