So this last week the US version of Life on Mars had its series finale. I am a fan of the original British show, and had been watching the American series (which I firmly believe was canceled far too early). Before I go any further, I will mention that I will do my best to avoid spoilers regarding the plots and endings of both series. I might slip up though, so please forgive me.
First and foremost, I actually found myself enjoying the American series overall. While it's true I think Philip Glenister was a much better "Gene Hunt" than Harvey Keitel, Keitel's performance was very good (and frankly, they wrote him to be a slightly different character). John Simm though, although I love the actor, was always far too broody in the original Life on Mars, and I found Jason O'Mara's version of Sam Tyler much more entertaining to watch.
And I'm not just saying that as a Monarch of the Glen fan.
That said, when the original series completed its run, it ended with a very satisfying episode that while not spelling things out for the audience, wrapped up all of the series loose ends. The US series' producers decided to abandon that ending though, and planned something entirely different.
When I say entirely different you should also understand that I mean entirely stupid as well.
The ending we got last Wednesday was apparently one the American producers had planned from the start. They also expected to give it to us after dropping a lot more clues over several seasons... but no matter what, it would have likely given audiences the same reaction.
And that reaction is that I felt cheated.
It's been several days, and I'm honestly still angry about it. It says that everything you've become emotionally invested in is null -- none of it matters at all. It's a harsh moment, and frankly it's just Newhart all over again with a dash of titular literalism thrown in to boot.
io9.com did a scale comparison of Battlestar Galactica's ending against various Star Trek finale's to see how readers thought that series finale rated with fans. Star Trek finales are one of those rare things in fandom where fans roughly agree on their quality (Next Generation as the best series finale, Enterprise as having the worst series finale). Most fans rated that finale highly, placing it up against "All Good Things."
If a poll was performed with the US version of Life on Mars, I'm completely certain that the last ten minutes would rate it against Enterprise's atrocious final episode (and I say this as someone who loved Enterprise as a series). The writers borked the American Life on Mars.
If that ending had occurred after several seasons of clues and stronger references than the few we had gotten (along with a larger departure from the British series), maybe I would feel differently. It didn't though. It came after one season, and we ended up getting hit over the head with something that barely made sense retroactively.
The writers should have thought about this though. They should have said "we haven't built enough of this new series to make this ending satisfying." They should have changed their ending to match the emotional journey they'd brought the audience on.
The only thing that makes me still like the series is the final shot of the series though, which makes it possible for me to pretend that last scene didn't really happen.
I guess that's what I'll have to cling to.