‘Life on Mars’ pilot blends humor with realism

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Jake Gilman, Alexa Prosniewski, Andie Isaacs and Lindsay Heisman present the screening of "Life on Mars." Photo courtesy UM School of Communication

Jake Gilman, Alexa Prosniewski, Andie Isaacs and Lindsay Heisman present the screening of “Life on Mars.” Photo courtesy UM School of Communication

On Tuesday night, Cosford Cinema premiered the television pilot of a series created, written and produced by a group of University of Miami students and alumni.  “Life on Mars” is witty and charming, and the show takes a down-to-earth concept and makes it out of this world.

Starring Jake Gilman, a University of Miami alumnus and co-creator of the show, “Life on Mars” follows David Mars, an unsuccessful and cynical screenwriter who still lives with his mother. After writing a disastrous show called “Melancholy Circus,” Mars encounters trouble with coming up with new ideas and pitching them to agents. He forfeits the idea when his mother gets a dire diagnosis that her cancer treatments have not been effective and she refuses invasive surgery. Mars copes by writing a new screenplay, the titular “Life on Mars.”

“Life on Mars” began in January at the Ratskeller, according to executive producer and co-creator Andie Isaacs.

“I was working Monday, Wednesday [and]Friday and [Jake Gilman] was busy doing his writing, and we’d meet two times a week at the Rat and would go through ideas that we had,” she said.

By April, they had a basic idea and decided they wanted to produce the pilot themselves. They added another producer, fellow Cane Alexa Prosniewski. Isaacs’s father, David Isaacs, who also attended UM and is an acclaimed producer and creative consultant, helped produce the pilot.

After writing 65 drafts, the University of Miami graduates had their script. The rewrites and long process of shooting and editing paid off at the premiere.

“They did a really great job. The production team did really well,”said senior Rachel Gibler, who attended the screening. “I was really impressed with the filming and the script and everything. It was really fun to watch.” She said she would watch another episode if they ever made more.

The pilot sets itself apart from most other television shows with its blend of humor and realism. It begins with Mars’s mother telling him that nursing homes have the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases, then she promptly does her hair and flirts with the male nurse at her clinic. The humor can be both straightforward and subtle, like how Mars’s mother seems to have an obsession with Scrabble, which even appears in her mugs that have the same design as Scrabble letters.

The teamwork, Gilman says, is the main factor in the pilot’s success. “It’s been a fantastic experience working with such incredible people. The team has really done an amazing job on this,” he said.

While there are no set short-term plans for “Life on Mars,” the series concept has plenty of promise. From the witty banter to the deep decisions that the main characters will have to face, “Life on Mars” has the potential to become a popular television show if it were to be picked up.

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