Ashes To Ashes; Life After Mars

I’m a child of the 80s. I remember Rubik’s cube (I never ever completed the soddin’ thing); I had a pair of leg warmers; I thought the Brixton riots would travel up the road to my manor; I was into The Jam, New Romantics, jazz funk and electro. And 80s TV? Ah, 1980s TV. I mention all of this because I attended a screening of Life On Mars sequel, Ashes To Ashes. A mixture of press and cast (yes, Philip Glenister was there) were shown the premiere episode, set in 1981, just before Charles and Di’s wedding.

It’s goodbye to DI Sam Tyler (brilliantly played by John Simm) and the 1970s and hello to single mother DI Alex Drake (Spooks’ Keeley Hawes) and the 1980s. However, two things remain constant: the David Bowie connection (both shows are named after classic Bowie songs) and DCI Gene Hunt (a superb Philip Glenister).

He may have swapped the Ford Cortina for an Audi Quattro and Manchester for London, but he’s still the uncompromising, loud-mouthed, politically incorrect geezer we all know and love. Gene Hunt meets his (mis)match in the shapely form of trained psychologist DI Alex Drake. Like Sam Tyler, an incident sends her back in time. She wakes up in 1981 dressed as a prostitute with the sound of Ultravox classic Vienna ringing in her ears. Alex has to contend with her obnoxious partner, whose policing ideas clash violently with her own (naturally), and somehow find her way out of 1981.

The few reviews I’ve seen so far are mixed; some loved what they saw (The Sun) and others were distinctly unimpressed (The Times). The truth is somewhere in between. Ashes To Ashes is a different beast from Life On Mars in terms of tone and premise. A hot woman negates that whole ‘buddy’ thing Sam and Gene had going on (a la The Sweeney’s Regan and Carter, The Professionals’ Bodie and Doyle and, of course, Starsky and Hutch). Instead, the dynamic is firmly fixed on matters of the heart. Or, in Gene Hunt’s case, the place directly south. If the camera lingering on Alex Drake’s boobs and legs isn’t enough of a clue, the dialogue and scenarios clearly spell it out; sexual tension is going to be one of the key hooks of this series. Apropos really, as this was the very element that drove popular 1980s cop series Dempsey and Makepeace.

In addition to the sex factor, the humour is significantly upped, but with mixed results. When DCI Gene Hunt is informed that a suspect has used a BT Phonecard (RIP), there’s a pause before he disgustingly growls, "Flash git!" Hahahaha! Genius. However, when the tongue-in-cheek approach is also extended to the action scenes, the outcome is less successful. "You’re the B team – we’re the A team!" Gene tells some coppers before a whopping shoot-out with the baddies which is largely played for laughs…just as The A-Team was. It jars sharply with the darker sequences and, in my opinion, has no place on this series. I hope that was a one-off. In Life On Mars, DCI Gene Hunt naturally grew into an unlikely cult figure; here he’s a figure of fun. Albeit with a mouth filthier than a Victorian sewer. In essence, he’s a parody of his 1970s incarnation which was in turn a parody (geddit?). If the most compelling character is reduced to a two-dimensional cartoon, that’s really bad news.

However, Kudos to Kudos (the makers of this series) for tapping into things that freak us out: Life On Mars used the BBC’s Test Card Girl as a creepy spiritual guide, Ashes To Ashes employs the scary clown Bowie played in the video to his 1980 No 1 hit – creepy. This opening episode isn’t bad, but it has huge hype and high expectations to live up to. Inevitably, it doesn’t quite meet them. Watch out for the new series sometime in February on BBC1.

Useful Links:
The BBC’s Life On Mars site
IMdb info about Philip Glenister
Download David Bowie tracks

Today I am mostly lovin’ – The return of Torchwood. What a hot kiss between Captains Jack and John!

Today I am mostly hatin’ – The promos for Coleen’s ‘Real Women’. Enough already!

MSN Editor Coops
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36 Responses to Ashes To Ashes; Life After Mars

  1. Coops - says:

    This is the best review of Ashes To Ashes that I\’ve come across so far. I thought The Times were up their a@se and criticising for the sake of it. But this seems pretty balanced so I\’m going to take your word for it. I\’m a big Life On Mars fan and I\’m really looking forward to this. Thanks.

  2. Maria says:

    Personally, Life on Mars follow on sounds dreadful.  Single mum (yawn), obviously more intelligent, caring, blah blah than the Gene Genie character.  He was the real star of Life on Mars and if he just becomes some two dimensional, foul mouthed character then I certainly shall be switching off.  Why, oh why oh why, can\’t we have a \’buddy\’ pairing again – so much more fun and even more so if it is two straight men.  Can\’t we ever get off the sex bandwagon!!  I will watch the first episode but I am not holding my breath

  3. phil says:

    As regards Torchwood, I have never anticipated a show so much, just to be so disappointed with the outcome. The first series was so riveting. Each episode building on the last, good characterisation etc. No story so far with the new season, hopefully that will be remedied as the series progresses. As for those "kisses", I had to turn away from the screen. I hope the looks between Jack and Ianto aren\’t a sign of things to come…

  4. Coops - says:

    Thanks for your comments guys. (no name), I\’m hoping Ashes will find its feet as the series progresses. It\’s not easy to follow something as special as Life On Mars. Red Five – I liked the new series of Torchwood. I\’m not going to comment on the plans for Jack and Ianto otherwise you may not watch anymore…  🙂 Nice to see a fellow Star Wars freak here.

  5. Unknown says:

    Good grief i detest anything like Star Wars, Dr. Who anything Trecky! What\’s the point? Next you\’ll be saying you like Dr. Who David Tennant?! He\’s not a man, he\’s a wimp! He is so thin and wirey, no definition to his body, he\’s so ugly and worst of all is that vile accent!!!!!!!!!!!!! No problem with the Scots, just his interpritation of that accent!! Such utter rubbish!

  6. Bridget says:

    Personally I think we should remember what a great series Life on Mars on was and it would be amazing for something to match some thing of this caliber but we should wait in anticipation of the next series Ashes to Ashes with an open mind and lets face it the amount of good tv that is dished out to us is no where in this league.

  7. Jacqueline says:

    Ashes to Ashes – Regardless of how the critics and anyone else think I am going to watch it with and make up my own mind.  Too many times I have enjoyed programmes that have been dissed by others.  Who are the critics anyway? My sister has worked as a critic for a Scottish newspaper and I can\’t say her opinion is any more valuable when it comes to a TV programme than others I have discussed the programming I have watched. Try it and give it more than one episode before deciding either way. To Red Five – if you don\’t want to watch Torchwood with adult content then watch it on Thursday as it is shown at an earlier time for the children.

  8. michael says:

    Moving DCI Gene Hunt  with a female co-star into the the 80\’s will be a big mistake.  That was when Britain was beginning the slide toward the unpleasant modern condition of being \’womanised\’;  girlies are best at everything,  it\’s the law,  and on TV any man with forthright opinion does not belong;  barely exists anymore. Two-dimensional men with a \’feminine side\’ are the order of the day. 

  9. Aleczandra says:

    I don\’t watch it.I don\’t understand the plot. I\’m confused

  10. Coops - says:

    Hey Ninja Girl – it\’s not on yet; it starts in February. However, as you\’re only 13 – you\’re not really the target market. But don\’t let that put you off if you liked Life On Mars. 🙂 Call Me Old Fashioned, I hear what you\’re saying but Tony Soprano doesn\’t fit into your mould, does he? Neither does Gregory House. There will be eight instalments of Ashes To Ashes – I\’m sure one episode at least will be mind-blowing.

  11. mark says:

    I was a very big fan of Life on Mars.  The producers certainly done their research.  I think that Ashes to Ashes will be a success as like Life on Mars it has a good cast!  Dont believe the critics judge for yourself!

  12. Unknown says:

    No self respecting Jam fan would have been into the new romantics, jazz funk or electro. And they certainly wouldn\’t have worn leg warmers!!!!!

  13. Coops - says:

    Listen (no name), I was a young Jam fan and I embraced most genres of music. Yes, I liked Spandau Ballet (gonna try and tell me that Chant No 1 and To Cut A Long Story Short weren\’t good pop songs?), Japan (Ghosts – their best), Ultravox and Duran Duran (Planet Earth – classic) As for the leg warmers – it was high fashion back then! I bought Smash Hits too – gonna hold that against me?

  14. jacqueline says:

     I think life on mars should have carried on, why let go of a good thing? they could have had the girl try  o   

  15. jacqueline says:

    I think sam  was good but they could have carried on in the 70s , the girl could have come in to rescue sam  and got stuck in time. how many people think the same as me?

  16. Unknown says:

    I cant wait for ashes to ashes,life on mars was the best thing on tv for a long time.
    I see its her from spooks which i liked as well.

  17. Manni & Tine says:

    should\’ve kept life on mars goin!

  18. jeff says:

    hey-up is the BBC going to justify the fee or what lets hope so.

  19. Katherine says:

    I loved Life on Mars, even though I it was based 17 years before I was born! Ha… Ashes to Ashes looks OK. However, there are some things I really don\’t understand about it… Firstly, why, oh why did they move it to London!!!! It was great having something out of London for a change! What\’s with that city!?! And secondly, they look the same age…a decade later??? I guess they can\’t really do anything about that! But, still… I will just have to watch and see… 🙂

  20. paul says:

    i have watched both series of life on mars twice and enjoyed it just as much second time around. i do hope ashes to ashes dosent let me down i,m looking forward to it. We need more programes like this and get rid of some of the reality shows like BB bring back actors the public cant do the job.

  21. david says:

    A few comments on this thread.
     
    1.  A non-entity is making personal comments about David Tennant, but the truth is that that boy has worked for his success and thoroughly deserves every minute of it.  If you can\’t see star quality then you deserve to be fed a televisual diet of soap opera and reality shows.  Enjoy…
     
    2. I too do not like the way Torchwood has morphed into something akin to Hollyoaks with all that who\’s-going-with-who stuff.  And whilst I don\’t find necessarily find same sex kissing offensive, I equally don\’t regard it as entertainment.  BTW, I watched the second episode of this series last night, and was pleased to see that the bisexual Torchwood team kept their libidos in check.  Just a pity that the writer could not think up something a little better than a pastiche (well, rip off really) of Terminator 2: Judgement Day.  Oh, and how on earth are they going to make that storyline ‘family friendly’ for the early evening edit? 
     
    3.   Gene Hunt was about the best thing on British television in ages and I would welcome his return.  And if the show is not in the same vein as Life on Mars, perhaps it isn’t meant to be?

  22. Damaris says:

     I will watch the pilot episode but I fear it is going to be just another sad excuse to see a female in a load of sexually compromising clothing and or situations, I loved Life on Mars as even the sexist attitude regarding wpc\’s and other females in general was done realistically as was shown in the wife swapping episode- lets face it the underwear was hardly titillating was it?. My heart sank when it was stated that the side kick to Gene would be a woman and your write up does nothing for my confidence that this follow on series will be my cup of tea.  Maybe DCI hunt and his attitude / quips will save the show but if the writers have run out of ideas (which is usually the case when they resort to using sex as a selling point) then I  would rather it had never been commissioned than besmirch the brilliance of its predecessor

  23. Neil says:

    unfortunatly you just know this isnt going to work,Life on Mars could have failed spectacularly as an idea but we all took it and its characters to our hearts,but just like Pirates of the Carribean 2,The Stone Roses second album,The Pahntom Menace and Rambo 2 i fear that Ashes to Ashes will be just be the death of what should have just remained as a one off.

  24. derek says:

    David Tennent is Scotish, he speaks with a very broad Scots accent…

  25. Sara says:

    I \’m with david on this one can\’t wait for ashes to ashes, thought life on mars was the best thing on tv for along time and gave you something to look forward. Call me sad but its true, yes some of you may cringe with the politically incorrectness but wasn\’t it nice to have an argument or conversation were you didn\’t have to think every word through before speaking incase of upsetting anyone?

  26. Unknown says:

    lost is just the best program on tv god love sexy jack he is hot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  27. bernie says:

    ASHES TO ASHES
     
    I have just finished watching the first episode and was not disappointed and the music brought back some memories looking forward to the rest of the series

  28. Ben says:

    hi there does anyone know the song with the heavy bass line that played as the episode finished and into the credits??
     
    Cheers, Ben

  29. Toni says:

     
    Toni
    I watched Ashes to Ashes last night and to begin with I thought it was a very good plot. But then I saw the red dress and black stockings and thought here we go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
    I think I would have been more focussed if the sexual aspecy was not in my face so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  30. Steve says:

    ashes to ashes true great tv enjoyed every minute of it

  31. Phillip Peter says:

    It\’s similar yet totally different to life on Mars. 
    Cop shows in the 70\’s differed from how they where put together in the
    80\’s.  The speed boat scene looked totally awful but that was typical of
    cop shows in the 80\’s….OTT action with unrealistic editing (on a speed boat
    with guns blazing one second – suddenly on dry land next second).

    I think it will take a very open mind to accept this as a "sort of"
    sequel to life on Mars.  It is going to play up to life in the 80\’s and
    not 70\’s…a decade of color and sex appeal in your face…big hair, short
    skirts.  The age of the yuppie and "loadsamoney" and a Britain under Thatcherism

    As a follow up it may work.  But had this come before Life on Mars it
    would have sank quicker than Dynasty spin off "The Colby\’s".  If this is even just half the show Life on Mars was, it will still be some of the best TV this decade.

  32. Unknown says:

    Ashes to Ashes. Absolutely well worth waiting for, Gene Hunt is a legend. It wouldn\’t matter what era he was from, I can\’t imagine him ever being PC!! I wondered how they could ever follow Life on Mars as it was just the best thing that had been on TV for ages, but I think they\’ve done it. Glad to see Ray & Chris, Chris seems a bit more clued up now, possibly influenced by Sam,  Ray is just the same but with a perm!!! Its proper classic.  Alex does differ from Sam as she thinks she knows whats happening to her. but as anybody who watched the final episode of LOM will tell you, anything can happen and its not real!!!!! Love it.

  33. Darrell says:

    I DIDN\’T watch \’Ashes to Ashes\’ last night. I just couldn\’t.
     
    Life on Mars was such a brilliant and original series that I was convinced that making a sequel was a big mistake. The mixed reviews – although mainly positive – would seem to bear out my fears. Expectations of \’Ashes\’ are way too high for it to ever be judged on its own strengths as there will always be comparisons to LOM. It\’s inevitable. Never mind that the two series are, essentially, entirely different. People don\’t always like to make that differentiation, unfortunately.
     
    In saying all of the above, I\’m sure \’Ashes\’ will be succesful. It might even merit a second series, but it hasn\’t got a long shelf life. The daft thing is that Gene Hunt is TOO big a character to carry the series on his own. Introduce another \’big\’ character to complement him and you end up diluting him and all you\’re left with is just another drama.
     
    I wish the series and the cast well, but I won\’t be watching.

  34. Martin says:

    Well what can I say.
    The magic was there from the start for me, I didnt know what to really expect but once it had started knew I "we" were on to another winner.
    Everyone has a valid opinion and I have read all before me, If your in to this sort of program then Im sure we are all in for a very enjoyable ride.
    Well done BBC, This is now the only hour of the week that I do not moan about he licence fee.
    I like others look for jems amongst the dirt, and this one so far is gleaming.
    (Loving that audi too, used to own one and made me chuckle.)
     
     

  35. Maxine says:

    1.I thought Ashes to Ashes was a bit slow starting, but I loved the references to the eighties, 2 I think torchwood is hot at the moment, I am trying to work out who captain Jack is going to snog next,3 I love the Dr Who and think David Tennant is fantastic, when I first started to watch it I couldn\’t get him out of my head as the character Cassonova, but I think he makes an excellent Dr Who and view Torchwood as a totally different program.4. Lost I cant get into it at all,p,s I used to be able to do a rubic cube but can only do the top and middle layer, I have forgotten how to complete it, and I forgot how big the phones used to be!!

  36. Laura says:

    i really enjoyed Ashes to Ashes all though my friends think otherwise. I thought Life on Mars was brillant. it looked like The Sweeny which i think is what the creaters were trying to get at. can\’t wait till the next episode

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