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Dear Thursday: My So-Called Life on Mars [Spoiler Alert]

life-on-mars-usaSeriously, don’t read this if you haven’t seen the Life of Mars series finale yet.

Now, I have to admit that when I heard Life on Mars would be canceled but fully wrapped up, I was thrilled.

I liked the American version of Life on Mars well enough, despite their prudish refusal to show people actually smoking, one-note sexism arc (which kind of made me suspect that there weren’t any women on the writing table), and the lead character, Sam Tyler, completely forgetting about his beloved fiancee after like 3 or 4 episodes. And I welcomed the chance to see how it all ended, rather than have to commit to it Lost-style for an unknown amount of seasons, before its central mystery was finally revealed.

However, last night’s episode felt hastily written and it’s gotcha ending tacked on. As it turned out, the whole thing had been a glitchy 2035 simulation that had been running while our main character and his co-workers/astronauts were under stasis while on their way to Mars. Oh, and because Sam’s IRL dad, Harvey Keitel was his captain in the glitchy simulation and Sam slept with the captain’s daughter, who also had (rather vague) daddy issues  with Harvey Keitel, and somehow this solved the (also rather vague) daddy issues that Sam had. If you’re confused now, so was I.

But I’m not mad at the ending, b/c it was confusing. I’m mad because it was poorly executed. And this got me to wondering about a common philosophical question. Is it better for someone or something to die early rather than die lame?

For example I still love My So-Called Life, despite its brutal cancellation (also rendered by ABC) after just one season. I have no idea what happened after the cliff-hanger season one finale, but I’ll always remember it as a high-quality, well-executed series. Not so much with Life on Mars.

I also feel the same way about Aerosmith. Like if Steve Tyler had OD’d Jimi Hendrix style after “Janie’s Got a Gun,” then I’d probably still be a die-hard Aerosmith fan today. Same goes for U2, Seinfeld, Arthur Miller and a bunch of other artists and shows that have tapered off to a lame end.

So is it better to go out before or after your expiration date? And would you rather a TV show end abruptly or lamely? Weigh-ins welcome.