One of the series we’re currently watching is Life on Mars season 2. I enjoyed the first season – definitely fun TV – but so far season 2 has mostly failed to grab me. It felt too much like same old, same old. After all, we get it by now that the ’70s were sexist and racist. We get that Gene Hunt is a misogynist dick, albeit with occasional flashes of wit, who allows liberal viewers to vicariously enjoy their own reactionary urges. The first four episodes of the season were competently executed but not much more, and with most of them I felt that they would have been improved by being the length of your average US series episode rather than the usual BBC hour. After all, if your intrepid, flare-trousered heroes stumble around for ten, fifteen minutes trying to solve the case after the audience has figured out who dunnit, things get a bit boring.
Episode five, though, was a distinct improvement. Not only was the format changed slightly, with Sam Tyler out of the policing loop for most of the episode, and the writing cleverer, the episode also sported a gorgeous parody of “Camberwick Green” (which I’d never seen, but the sequence works nevertheless) at the beginning. If every episode were that much fun, I wouldn’t have spent the previous paragraph kvetching about the series.
However, I am doubtful that the planned ’80s spin-off, Ashes to Ashes, will be much good. It seems that they’re pretty much going for more of the same, just in ’80s neon aesthetic and with a woman police officer (played by Keeley Hawes) stuck in the past. It’s difficult not to go for heavy teen sarcasm and say, “Like, wow, how original!” And even though I enjoyed Hawes’ character Zoe in Spooks, she wasn’t exactly the strongest actor on that show. And I definitely don’t get enough of a kick out of Gene Hunt kicking nonces to be very excited about Ashes to Ashes.