What was that dead body doing on South 2nd Street in Williamsburg earlier this month? More frightening still, what was with all the seventies sideburns and ’staches? Welcome to Life on Mars, a new Thursday night ABC cop drama that follows a modern-day NYPD detective (played by Jason O’Mara) mysteriously plunked in New York City 30 odd years ago. “It’s a 1973 cop show, so for us, in terms of the history of that genre—from Serpico to The French Connection—it was natural to move the show here,” says Josh Applebaum, an executive producer who probably appreciates Bloomberg’s tax breaks, too. To create a New York before Starbucks and Apple stores, location scouts hunt for areas of the city untouched by gentrification; for the scenes you see here, three storefronts didn’t have to be retouched … at all. “The great thing about the outer boroughs is that the architecture has remained virtually intact. Though pretty much wherever we’re shooting, we have to digitally remove buildings that are in the skyline now that weren’t then,” says Applebaum. (Note the condo in the first slide.) Once locations are set, the art department goes to work hiding new stuff and replacing what’s missing—like old-school phone booths. “We live in a somewhat paper-free society,” says Applebaum. “Back then, there was paper and garbage everywhere.” One other thing is blessedly missing: “In 1973 there was dog poop all over,” says O’Mara. “Now it’s all gone. We have to dress the set with our own dog poop.”
Michael Imperioli as Detective Ray Carling, and Gretchen Mol as a member of the Police Women’s Bureau.
Photographs by Edward Keating
Gretchen Mol and Michael Imperioli on the set.
Gretchen Mol getting make-up touch-up.
Michael Imperioli crouching on the set.