Life on Mars was first broadcast on BBC One between January 2006 and April 2007, lasting for two series in total.
An American version of the show was produced by ABC, and ran for one series from October 2008 to April 2009. Also, a Spanish version of the show aired from April to June 2009.
The sequel to the series, Ashes to Ashes, began transmission on BBC One in February 2008.
Life on Mars tells the fictional story of Sam Tyler (John Simm), a police officer in service with the Greater Manchester Police. After being hit by a car in 2006, Tyler awakes in 1973 and finds himself working for the predecessor of the GMP, the Manchester and Salford Police at the same station and location as in 2006. Early on in the series, it becomes apparent to Tyler that he awakes as a Detective Inspector, one rank lower than his 2006 rank of Detective Chief Inspector. As part of the CID, Tyler finds himself working under the command of Gene Hunt (Philip).
Throughout the two series, the central plot centres on the ambiguity concerning Tyler’s predicament of it being unclear to both the audience and the character whether he has gone mad, is in a coma or has actually travelled back in time.
The programme was originally conceived in 1998, when screenwriters Matthew Graham, Tony Jordan and Ashley Pharoah were sent on a break to the English seaside resort of Blackpool by Kudos Film & Television to think-up programme ideas.
Originally titled Ford Granada after the 1970s car, the series was rejected by the BBC. In response, Graham stated: “Back then, broadcasters just weren’t comfortable with something like that, something that wasn’t set in the real world and that had a fantasy element to it.”
According to Graham, the initial idea was for a humorous, pre-watershed programme that overtly mocked the styles and attitudes of the 1970s, with the comic actor Neil Morrissey envisaged as the central character.
Later, Channel 4 drama executive, John Yorke substantially redeveloped the original script, focusing on a double act between both Sam Tyler and Gene Hunt. However, senior management eventually decided not to pursue the idea, with Graham stating that the reaction to the idea was: “It’s going to be silly”, as told to Radio Times.
However, the series eventually attracted the attention of BBC Wales’ Julie Gardner, who persuaded the Head of Drama for the BBC, Jane Tranter, to commission the programme from BBC Wales for BBC One. John Yorke left Channel 4 to rejoin the BBC and together with Julie Gardner, he acted as joint commissioning editor on the show for its entire run.
Eight one-hour episodes of Life on Mars were broadcast weekly on Monday nights at 9:00 P.M. by the BBC.
The second series was broadcast weekly at the same time as the first, with the only difference being the change of transmission day from Monday to Tuesday.
On 9 October 2006, it was confirmed that the second series of Life on Mars would be its last.
Created by Matthew Graham, Tony Jordan and Ashley Pharoah Cast: John Simm, Philip Glenister, Liz White, Dean Andrews, Marshall Lancaster. Series Produced by: Jane Featherstone …. executive producer (16 episodes, 2006-2007) Matthew Graham …. executive producer (16 episodes, 2006-2007) Claire Parker …. executive producer / producer (16 episodes, 2006-2007) Marcus Wilson …. co-producer / line producer (16 episodes, 2006-2007) Cameron Roach …. producer (8 episodes, 2007) John Yorke …. commissioning editor (2 episodes, 2006) Series Directed by :S.J. Clarkson (6 episodes, 2006-2007) John Alexander (2 episodes, 2006) John McKay (2 episodes, 2006) Bharat Nalluri (2 episodes, 2006) Richard Clark (2 episodes, 2007) Andrew Gunn (2 episodes, 2007) Produced for BBC TV by Kudos Film & Television