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Red Right Hand: FUNK TO FUNKY
*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.



Here, I'm going to say a lot of critical, negativish things about Ashes to Ashes, but if you don't make it to the the end, know that I still enjoyed the first episode and will likely enjoy the entire series, which could build into something unique. If it doesn't, big deal. S'fun.

I'd intended to be as objective as I can (though there is no earthly reason why I should have to be) and judge the Life on Mars sequel series, Ashes To Ashes, without comparison to it's predecessor. I was going to do that until the first words spoken in the show was almost, but not quite the preamble spoken by Sam Tyler at the beginning of each Life on Mars.

Where I thought this might just be the same premise and involving Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) and his crew again, but all with the setting of the eighties, and no so much a sequel as a companion, it's totally a sequel. D.I. Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) has studies Sam Tyler and compares her situation to his repeatedly. Comparison was inevitable, but now it's just full-on invited. And in comparison, Ashes To Ashes is methadone to Life on Mars's heroin.

It's automatically going to suffer by not being the first. Life on Mars was fresh, but we come to Ashes to Ashes knowing, maybe, a little more than the timelost main character.

To a certain degree, it suffers in another way. While Life on Mars was a take on seventies cop shows (specifically The Sweeney, but we Americans have our own touchstones (Kojak, Starsky & Hutch) that aren't so far off), Ashes to Ashes is the same for the eighties. Dempsey and Makepeace is often cited, but again, Americans can find similarities to a bevy of eighties guns and jumping (less Miami Vice, more Hunter) shows. My problem. Looking back on (American) cops shows of the past, the ones from the seventies seem to stand-up a little better than most of the eighties ones. Looking at them as source material, Life on Mars got the better stuff.

Except -hey- not one but two Duran Duran songs and both used in action sequences. Maybe I should have expected them, but they came as a brilliant surprise.

The Pierrot clown, an obvious connection to the "Ashes to Ashes" music video (itself a product of the eighties (the medium, not just the video itself) and, apparently, the single sleeve, just seems a little too...well, a little too. It's a pale echo of the test card girl. And the song itself is a sequel of sorts and so the connective tissue is just too easy, but maybe they're forcing it.

And about Gene. He's still delightfully just wrong, but he's thisclose to being the out and out star of the show, and that's a problem. He's going from being contrast to being the hero. In the action stuff, they're shooting him like he's Sonny Crockett. He's so not. There was some hee-yahness wth a shotgun that even D.I. Drake called him on.

Also, not a huge Keeley Hawes fan. Don't hate her or anything, just...y'know. Would've liked somebody else. In just about everything I've seen her in.

Her character is cool though, a forensic psych type who's a bit cold with her daughter even after she almost saw her mum's brain's splattered from here to Brixton. She spends half the epsisode in undercover hooker gear, but still manages to do the authority thing pretty well. And yes, Hawes deserves some credit there. Still don't like her much.

It's also, for now anyway, trying have it's cake and eat it too. It's very existence rips some of the intentionally left mystery from the end of Life on Mars, but some remarks by Drake about her research on Tyler tries to open a different door entirely while also suggesting that she may be int he same predicament only because she knows about Tyler and his.

Her awareness, and thus easy acceptance, of her situation could grow tiresome if she keeps trying to game the situation as she did through the first episode.

I can't have more Life on Mars (barring the American remake, which has a nearly identical pilot script, but beyond th-- gah - that's a whole other post or six) and I didn't want any. It ended too well. But I'm not going to turn this down. It doesn't suck. It's fun. And the first series should last until we get our American TV back on.

To conclude the hard drug metaphor: It's not sweet lady H, but I'll take what I can get.
©2024 Michael Patrick Sullivan
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