Diary of an old cheeser

Hi there! Like other blogs, this is my chance to wax lyrical (some might say talk utter cr*p) about a) what's happening in my life b) all of my pet obsessions in particular music, tv, movies, books and other generally connected things, quite often of the retro, old and "cheesy" variety. Hence the title of my blog. Feel free to leave a comment if the mood takes you. There's nothing like a good chinwag about one's favourite topics and besides I love to meet new people! Cheers, Simon

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Is there life on Maaaaars?

Last night I watched "Life on Mars" for the first time. In fact it's just returned for a brand new series. And it's been raved about by all manner of people.

On the whole I enjoyed it. The premise involves a modern policeman from 2006, Sam Tyler (played by John Simm) who after being hit by a car, finds himself in 1973. There, he is working for Manchester and Salford Police CID under DCI Gene Hunt (played by Philip Glenister). One of the main (and most fascinating) themes of the programme is the conflict in attitudes between Tyler and his 1970s colleagues. Coming from the politically correct 21st Century, Tyler's methods of policing and general moral code are significantly different to those of DCI Hunt and co, who work in a police force where sexism, racism, police brutality and internal corruption are all commonplace! Lest this sounds unpleasant viewing, it isn't necessarily. Yes, some of the attitudes and behaviour exhibited by these coppers are uncomfortable to watch, but, I think the programme is capturing how things really were in the 1970s - and in fact TV cop shows from that period, like "The Sweeney" or "The Professionals", were just the same! We're not supposed to approve. The joy of "Life on Mars" comes from seeing the clash between modern Tyler and old school Hunt and our knowledge, as an audience, that things will eventually change - and hoorah for that. In the meantime poor old Tyler has to put up with such archaic attitudes. It doesn't all go unchallenged though. Tellingly there is only one female police officer, Annie Cartwright, in Hunt's department who is often regarded as the token bit of fluff, however at the end of yesterday's episode, after some particularly good work, she gets promoted! Accompanied by lots of patronising comments from the fellas, one of whom slaps her on the arse. To which, in response, she slaps him back on his arse. Go Annie!

We also get lots of frequent off-hand jokes about a future the audience already knows, but the historical characters do not, which nicely adds to the overall sense of irony in the show.

Tyler's situation is also an interesting one. Has he really travelled back in time? Is he in a coma in 2006 and imagining his experiences? Or is he really from 1973 and mentally unstable? We've had lots of clues to suggest that any of these could be true. Intriguing stuff that keeps us watching. Let's hope we find out the real answer before the end (this series is scheduled to be the last so there'd better be some decent explanations!)

Last night's episode had Marc Warren guesting as a villain (something he specialises in) and he was quite good, if a little underused. I also thought he was great in "Love and Monsters" in the last series of Dr Who (in which he played a loveable geek called Elton, with a personal interest in the Dr and ELO. "Interesting" combination).

Finally, I don't know how many of you have heard the recent rumours, but John Simm has been hotly tipped to be appearing in the up and coming third series of Dr Who. It's been said that he'll play the part of the Dr's arch-nemesis, The Master, a fellow Time Lord and renegade who popped up on many an occasion in the original version of the show. Mmm!! I wonder how much of that is true! If it is, I honestly hope Mr Simm can rise to the challenge. Eric Robert's OTT/camp portrayal of the Master in the 1996 Dr Who Movie was pretty damn dreadful. And Anthony Ainley, who first appeared as the evil Time Lord in the Tom Baker years, started off quite well, but quickly descended into pantomime villainy. Only Roger Delgado, the first and original Master during the Jon Pertwee years, really cut the mustard. His performance was classy, restrained and never less than menacing. Let's hope the new Master character (if he does materialise!) is treated with deference and respect. The resurrection of the Daleks and Cybermen was handled pretty well in the new series, so I hope it's a case of third time lucky!

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  • At 4:16 am , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    Let’s “take a look at the lawman beating up the wrong guy…” I have to admit to not really giving “Life on Mars” a chance in its first season. I watched the opening episode and wasn’t hooked. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind that night as I seem to be in the minority with this one! I love the concept of time travel, I love things which are extremely stylised, and I love “The Sweeney” so I can’t explain why I didn’t take to this. Last year, it was on at the same time as “Balderdash and Piffle”, about the origins of phrases in the English language, which I watched instead and was a lot more fun than it probably sounds!

    “We’re the Sweeney, son, and we ’aven’t ’ad our dinner yet…” It could be that the reason why Regan and Carter were so good was that the best episodes were directed by the same guy who directed the best episodes of “Doctor Who” during the Sixties, Douglas Camfield. I watched some of them last year on Men and Motors, until the channel was removed from Freeview, and wasn’t disappointed. Unfortunately, I never caught my favourite episode, “Thou Shalt not Kill”, although I did see it during the early days of Channel Five. I’ve never been overly keen on “The Professionals” despite it being made by the same team as later series of “The Avengers”. “Kick ’im, George”!!!

  • At 7:17 am , Blogger Steve said...

    The first series of Life On Mars is definitely worth a second chance, Time Warden, in fact I'd go so far as to say it's essential viewing. The first episode was difficult as I felt they tried to pack a little too much into it... once the premise was established the show just rocketed.

    I'm looking forward to seeing John Simm play the Master - cheers for the tip off guys - though not having been Dr Who regular when the original series was broadcast (yes, I feel very ashamed and impoverished) I have watched the new series avidly and have loved them. As I don't have any Dr Who baggage being dragged around with me I won't have a template with which to compare Simms Master - maybe that's a good thing, maybe not?

    I agree that the cultural clashes in Life On Mars are a big part fo the attraction and certainly we find Gene Hunt's attitudes horrendous... yet there is something strangely admirable about the character too. Maybe Political Correctness has gone too far and Gene Hunt is a refreshing change?

  • At 9:03 am , Blogger Samarcand said...

    I'm glad you enjoyed it. I knew you would...

    We have been promised an explanation for Sam by the end of this series - no Lost style continuing agonies for this series (although god knows what they're going to do for the American series, where the two British series wouldn't even make up a single season over there...)!

    Secondly, the John Simm as the Master thing has been sort of denied, so it's still a bit up in the air. Personally, I hope it's not true. Not because he wouldn't do it well, I think he'd be very good, but because I don't want the end of the series spoiled like this a month before the damn series starts!

  • At 6:54 pm , Blogger Lubin said...

    I've been watching the first series of this on DVD and am enjoying it. I missed taping the new episode because I was watching The Verdict on the other channel.

    I love the 1970s!!!

  • At 3:21 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Time Warden - Yeah, I enjoyed "Life on Mars" but perhaps like you I didn't find it the best thing I'd ever seen! (You can probably guess what ranks highest in my favourite TV progs list...) However I will endeavour to keep watching it and giving it a chance, it certainly has lots of interesting aspects and is generally a well-made drama.

    I remember The Sweeney vaguely as a kid but was too young too remember most of it! Besides which my Mum probably thought it was too violent and suitable for a sensitive boy of my age! I was more into "Cagney and Lacey", "CATS Eyes" and "Dempsey and Makepeace" - all 1980s cop shows and significantly , featuring women in the main character roles. That's probably why I can't totally relate to "Life" - macho, male thuggish cop characters don't really do it for me. Although as I said, "Life" is rather more ironic in its portrayal of its characters, from a 21st Century standpoint.

    Steve - Glad to hear you've got into the new Who! Yes, perhaps unlike us sad geeky fans of the "original" Who, it's a good thing that you won't be doing any obsessive Master comparisons. After all the new series is surely partly intended for a whole new generation of viewers for whom it isn't really necessary to have seen the original show. (Even if it does use many elements from Dr Who Mark 1 of course).

    I guess you could say that Gene's character is "honest" and unhampered by the sometimes contricting PC attitudes of today. I don't know - it's a fine line really. I certainly don't condone racism, sexism, homophobia and so on. The fact of the matter though is that attitudes WERE different back in the 70s and people were less enlightened/aware. The character of Gene surely reflects this.

    Samarcand - Yes with the reservations I made, I enjoyed it! And I'm looking forward to the explanation at the end...

    And I will try not to hold my breath about the John Simm thing. Unfortunately we seem to get spoilers for every damn series of Dr Who. They blew the gaff about the Daleks coming back at the end of Series One. Although they did manage to keep this a secret in the Series Two finale so it's hit and miss. There's already been other unsubstantiated rumours about Series Three like the Zygons coming back. So let's wait and see what happens. "The Sun" hasn't exactly been accurate in the past, after all. I remember them saying the Gelth were going to come back at the end of Series Two. And did that happen? Nah.

    Lubin - I too will have to watch the first series at some point, would be good. Yes, the 1970s have many commendably cheesy and kitsch elements. It's funny because of course, at the time, all the things we take the proverbial out of now would have been regarded as totally normal. Do you think in years to come we'll be looking back at the early 2000s and laughing our heads off?


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