Ashes to Ashes
Among certain sections of the youth there seems to be a desire to believe that the 80s was some kind of golden age for music, fashion and culture. Those of us who lived through that cultural desert find this confusing. I mean, there were great individual moments in the 80s but overall it was a turbulent, political and social maelstrom which produced terrible pop music, wack clothing and a poisonous corruption of the human spirit. Not necessarily great material for nostalgia. Not that that bothers the makers of Life on Marswho have chosen the year 1981 to set their sequel Ashes to Ashes. Thatcher is in her third year of power, Adam Ant is in the charts and Aston Villa are champions of England. Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
"Overall, the 80s was a turbulent political and social maelstrom which produced terrible pop music, wack clothing and a poisonous corruption of the human spirit."
Ashes to Ashes is more or less a rerun of the Life on Mars premise. DI Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) of the London Metropolitan Police Force (or is that Police Service these days, I forget?), is stranded in 1981 after being shot by a scrote. She finds herself dressed as a high class prostitute on a pleasure boat on the Thames (not the Marchioness fortunately) as Vienna plays. We’ve all had nights like that. Alex is posh, has qualifications in psychology and was seconded to the FBI on some kind of Silence of the Lambs shit. She was studying the case of Sam Tyler, writing a book about him in fact, so she demonstrates an understanding of her condition which makes it seem as if she’s watched Life on Mars which is a little disconcerting at times.
"She was studying the case of Sam Tyler which makes it seem as if she’s watched Life on Mars which is a little disconcerting at times."
Ok then, Keeley Hawes. The problem with Squealey Nause is that she is simply not a very good actress. She is mired in emotional cliche where John Simm was very nuanced. This is a role that requires an understanding of ambivalence and how to portray it. You want to go back, get back to the future yet you’re forming relationships with people in your new home, slowly becoming attached. It’s bittersweet not "YAAARRRGH!"
Squealey only really understands melodrama. Her reactions and expressions are those of the emotional thug who only has two speeds on her emotive gearstick – oh my God, this is terrible!, oh my God, this is wonderful!. Maybe if she spent more time reading her marriage vows and less time acting like she’s being tied to railtracks in a silent film then things would be better? Just a thought. Here to help.
Gene Hunt is back and of course that’s a good thing, maybe even a necessary thing. They are overwriting him just a touch though. It’s very obvious that they know what a popular character he is and everything he says and does comes with a drum roll and a pause for applause. This could get very tedious and they really can’t afford that. Chris and Ray also come with Gene, all three presumably having transferred to the Met from Manchester at the same time? Maybe there’s more to come on that.
"Nause has three speeds on her emotive gearstick – oh my God, this is terrible!, oh my God, this is wonderful! and oh my God, I’m leaving you for my Spooks co-star!"
"Rather like when you see footage of early punk gigs and half the crowd are dressed like the Guildford 4 – it takes a while for Face magazine fashion to filter through."
The cipher that was Annie Cartwright has been replaced with WPC Sharon ‘Shaz’ Granger, played by Montserrat Lombard and you really have to give the producers credit here as they’ve turned a remarkable looking slice of pie into a plain Jane. Not a Plain Jane Superbrain of Neighbours fame y’ken because Shaz is quite thick. She is obviously going to be fucking Chris at some point as they’re cranking up the sexual tension between those two.
They’re gamely trying to do the same with Gene and Alex but it’s not really working at the moment. The period touches are amusing but I don’t think 1981 was really all that 80s. Shoulder pads and Bollinger swilling yuppies were a few years away weren’t they? Rather like when you see footage of early punk gigs and half the crowd are dressed like the Guildford 4 – it takes a while for Face magazine fashion to filter through.
It’s only the first episode so I’m giving this a go. Life on Mars was great so they’ve earned a bit of good faith. They use 80s music really well and the Zippy and George from Rainbow scenes were suitably chilling, as was the Pierrot clown from the Ashes to Ashes video. I guess I need to believe a little bit more in Alex Drake and more importantly give a flying fuck about her. At the moment, I care as much about her as she does about subtle eye make-up.
The verdict on Ashes to Ashes: Needs to get better.
Marks out of 10: 6