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 14, 2008

I'm happy, hope you're happy too...

And I’ve been slow in posting my thoughts on this one! The eagerly awaited sequel to “Life on Mars” hit our screens last Thursday and was for the most part well-received by most.

With a premise not a million miles away from its predecessor, modern day detective Alex Drake (that’s female as opposed to male Alex) is shot by a criminal and finds herself transported back to 1981. She’s also no longer dressed in her policewoman civvies but in the attire of a high class hooker, with a voluminous perm to match. And then she encounters Gene Hunt, the copper she’d heard all about when reading up on the case of Sam Tyler, the cop who mysteriously disappeared from London of the 2000s to reappear in the 1970a, or so legend has it. And therewith a new relationship is struck, as Alex goes into partnership with old skool (i.e. bigoted, backward and brutish) Hunt, whilst simultaneously trying to figure out how to get back to 2008…

I’ll get my gripes out of the way first. Whilst still enjoyable, Ashes to Ashes does rather fall down in the originality department in that it re-uses wholesale the very same ideas from “Life on Mars” – cop wakes up in another time period with no obvious way of getting home and consequently has a number of issues to deal with: How will they adjust to living in a totally different time? Are they still in 2008 and merely hallucinating? Or have they really been transported back in time? Are they in a coma and dreaming the whole thing? These were the questions confronting Sam Tyler in both series of “Life” and now Alex is being subjected to exactly the same brand of weirdness. I hope we get a decent sense of resolution this time round - “Life on Mars" left things very open-ended indeed and whilst room for interpretation can sometimes be a good thing, it also felt frustrating. I’d like to see the writers going for a different tack or something really clever.

The plotline also seemed rather formulaic and was a typical storyline about tracking down a gangster, not exactly earth-shattering stuff. I admit that I switched off a few times. Also I don't know if they could condense down each episode to 45-50 minutes as opposed to 60 - it felt a little on the long side somehow with some padding they could have afforded to lose.

However, ample compensation came in the characterisation and there was a lot of fun to be had here. Keeley Hawes was excellent as Alex and she and Philip Glenister as Gene sparked off each other entertainingly. And this time the relationship is different to that of Sam and Gene – most obviously because Gene now has to work alongside a female DCI who is his “equal” – which is going to make for some interesting dynamics not to mention interesting viewing (this was nicely counter pointed by the inclusion of an ineffectual lady officer with a pudding bowl haircut, who Alex has to rescue). Too many male characters does create an atmosphere of machismo and rather too much thuggishness at times – I confess I’m more of a Charlie’s Angels man than Sweeney or Professionals – so the inclusion of a leading female character is undoubtedly welcome.

Keeley H looked great and was pretty foxy - even with her 80s styling she managed to look contemporary at the same time. I hope she doesn't end up getting it on with Gene though, which does seems to be the route that these male/female partner cop shows predictably go down – look at Dempsey and Makepeace or David and Maddie in Moonlighting – coppers who started off loathing each other but a couple of seasons later were snogging each others’ faces off. The old thin line between love and hate, and all that. As fun as Gene’s character is, he's not much of a horndog (in my book anyhow...) Personally I’d prefer to see Keeley get it on with a nice Tony Hadley type. We’ll see.

The other major point of appeal for me was of course the 1980s setting and styling. It will be interesting to see how authentically the production team can reproduce the 80s in later episodes. They did it fairly well in the opening story such as the scene where Alex finds herself on the barge in 1981, surrounded by lots of yahs in suits singing drunkenly to Ultravox’s “Vienna”. Then stepping outside we see that the Millennium dome and Canary Wharf have totally vanished – a nice bit of trickery. And then there was the freakyyyyyyyyyyy 80s clown! Modelled with frightening accuracy on the look David Bowie sports in the “Ashes to Ashes” video. In “Life on Mars” we had the freakyyyyyyyyy testcard girl but the clown is even creepier. What's his significance?

With the usual Cheeser reservations then, a good opening instalment. To tell the truth I don’t know how many more episodes of “Ashes to Ashes” I’ll be able to catch. Episode two is on tonight is but as we all know it’s also Valentine’s Day and I don’t think the hubbie would be very impressed if I plonked myself down in front of the box and ignored him…divorce might be imminent otherwise! So I am of course relying on the rest of you to keep me informed. Viva la 80s!

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  • At 7:22 am , Blogger Steve said...

    I know what you mean about transplanting so much of the plot from Life On Mars but at the end of the day that is the premise of the show. What I like about it is Alex's very different response: whereas Sam was paranoid and cautious, Alex is almost drunk with "well, as this is all in my head I can do whatever I like". It's like she's lucid dreaming and it's making for great entertainment. I'm constantly being distracted by the music though... I'm amazed at how much I have on my MP3 player!

  • At 7:53 am , Blogger The Sagittarian said...

    Simon, looks like another good show that we are missing out on. You know, we have only just seen Tracey murder Charley (Coro St) over here....turn back the calendar, babe, we're nearly in NZ

  • At 1:07 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Steve - Sure, I just don't think that they could get away with using the same premise indefinitely. There is only so much recycling that you can get away with! Don't you think that Alex is just as keen to get home though? And she is really missing her daughter!

    I agree, great 80s music!! What's on your MP3, Mr?

    Amanda - You will probably get it over there eventually though won't you?

    Oh God, Traaaaacey Barlow!! I didn't know she'd murdered that guy. Did you know the actress who played her walked past the place where I had my wedding reception, when some of my family were outside having a smoke? One of my brothers shouted something like "It's Traaaaacey!" and she turned round and gave him a dirty look! Miserable cow!

  • At 6:47 am , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    Interesting point you make at the end of your post! Don't you and Gustavo share similar viewing tastes? Doesn't he want to watch "Ashes to Ashes" with you? Perhaps even more importantly, what does your husband think of "Doctor Who"?


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