Memo to October Road creators Josh Appelbaum and Scott Rosenberg: All’s forgiven! The pair’s short-lived ABC soap made my ears bleed, but they more than made up for it with their out-of-this-world follow-up, Life on Mars — so much so that I’m almost tempted to give Road a second look on DVD. (I said almost.) Unfortunately, anemic ratings prompted ABC to abort Mars‘ mission after just 17 episodes, the last of which airs tomorrow night (10 pm/EST). The good news? Appelbaum and Rosenberg had enough notice to wrap up the time-tripping drama’s central mystery and give viewers what has become something of a rare commodity these days in TV land: closure. The even better news? Despite my merciless Road bashing, the classy duo agreed to get on the phone with me to
spoil preview tomorrow’s must-see climax.
In the UK version, the fate of Sam was left very much up in the air. Please tell me your ending will be a little less ambiguous.
JOSH APPELBAUM: One hundred percent. There is a very clear and
definitive answer as to what his journey has been about and how all the
pieces over the past 17 hours play into that journey. At the same
time, we hope, like all great finales, it still leaves things open to
interpretation. But if there’s one thing we feel pretty good about it’s
that in the afterlife of Life on Mars on DVD or wherever, it will exist
as a cohesive, complete thought that will all make sense.
Did you always plan to conclude your version differently?
SCOTT ROSENBERG: Right from the beginning. Anybody with access to
Wikipedia can find out how the [UK version] ended. So we were certain we wanted to do it differently. And it was kind of in prep on
the pilot that we stumbled upon what our ultimate ending was. We never
did anything that wouldn’t be explained by this ending. And we also
left clues along the way, so people that go back and watch it a second
time will go, “So that’s why they did this.” There were names, numbers,
all kinds of things.
How will the finale be structured? Will there be the standard case to solve, or is it all about wrapping up Sam’s story?
ROSENBERG: There’s a standard case, but it’s all a culmination episode.
It was going to be the same if it was the season finale or a series
finale. The only difference is if it was a season finale it would have
ended with a very different Act Six, with cliffhangers and that sort of
thing. [Sam's] mother and father play very heavily in it. Sam’s emotional
journey was really about his past and his family… And without saying too much, there’s a major climax with Sam and Annie’s journey together.
Will Lisa Bonet be in the episode?
ROSENBERG: She is not in it. She was for a half-second, and then we decided not to.
Is that a hint as to what decade he ultimately ends up in?
APPELBAUM: [to Scott] Good job stumbling into that one, Rosenberg. [Laughs]
You like how I did that?
This isn’t my first time at the rodeo.
ROSENBERG: Let’s start over: Lisa Bonet is in the episode. [Laughs]
Too late! Moving on, will the show definitely be on DVD?
There weren’t clearance issues with all the popular music you featured?
We only cleared songs if they allowed us to use it forever, and it wasn’t that difficult. Music is so important to us, both in this and in October Road. Remember that one, Michael?
Hmm… it rings a bell.
[Laughs] You’re like, “I tried not to.”
APPELBAUM: [Laughs] He’s like, “It was a bad case of indigestion.”
Last question: What’s the deal with the tiny robot?
The robot is totally explained away [in the finale]. By
Wednesday night at 11 you will know what the robot is, and I’m sure you
will be annoyed. [Laughs]