Pharoah gives thumbs up to U.S. 'Mars'

Co-creator of BBC series calls new version 'marvelous'

NEW YORK -- The co-creator of the BBC's "Life on Mars" gives high marks to the new version across the pond as being in the same gritty spirit as the British version.

"I think it's marvelous," said co-creator Ashley Pharoah, who was in Manhattan on Monday to pick up the show's second International Emmy for best drama. "We're really very proud of it."

Pharoah said he understands that the U.S. version was likely to take a different direction than the British version. After all, "Life on Mars" went a planned 16 episodes where the ABC version could have a first season of 22 episodes and maybe more if it's picked up.

"They're changing the mythology, which I think is all right," Pharoah said. "It has to be different. Otherwise everyone just goes on YouTube and sees how it ends."

And about that ending, a decidedly downbeat conclusion required, in part, because actor John Simm, didn't want to do more that 16 episodes. Pharoah said he has been talking to the writers of the ABC show but doesn't know how it'll end.

"Even we worried about that," said Pharoah. "Some people back home didn't like the ending, but that was the end we had in mind from the beginning."

Writer-producer Cameron Roach also doesn't mind the changes.

"I think it's good that it ends in a different way," Roach said. "It keeps the American audiences guessing."

Pharoah is also happy about the direction the show took after David E. Kelley left. "They made the right decison in my opinion to do (the show) in New York in the '70s" rather than the original plan for the ABC series, which was Los Angeles.

"It was sun-drenched and rather pleasant," Pharoah said of the first ABC pilot. "The whole point of our show in Manchester and the one in New York is to show those mean streets and show how much has changed in these 30 years."

Pharoah and Roach were able to make the trip to New York even more of a business trip by visiting the ABC show as it filmed scenes Monday in Brooklyn. They spent time with the show's cast and crew, and were particularly impressed with star Harvey Keitel. But the differences between the two versions were immediately apparent on set.

"For us, in our slightly limited BBC budget, we have two vintage cars," Pharoah said. "They had a whole street of them. There's kind of a bit of envy there. There were extras everywhere. My goodness."