Friday, February 08, 2008

The A Team

And now for some grown up telly....

(With spoilers so if you didn't see Ashes to Ashes last night, look away!

I was a bit late coming into Life on Mars, but thanks to Mad Twin, Spouse and I were completely hooked by series 2. And devastated when it was over. How could it be over? NOOOO!!! I wanted to see Sam Tyler stuck in Gene Hunt's world for ever, difficulties in keeping that storyline going aside...

When they announced that LoM was going to be followed up by Ashes to Ashes, I immediately thought how clever was that? Take the same formula and reinvent it, by changing the time, the location and the sex of the protagonist. When you think about it, they could keep this going forever.

So I have been looking forward to the new series, particularly because it's set in the 80s, the decade I think of as my own - yeah, yeah, yeah, I know the big hair and power shoulders get laughed at now, but for me it was the decade I grew up in, and I love the music.

It's always a bit of a worry when you look forward to something that much. But luckily, the first episode didn't disappoint.

It was fab.

From the moment that poor old Keeley Hawes (aka Alex Drake) took a shot in the face and woke up on a riverboat full of Hooray Henrys dressed as a prostitute (or as Gene Hunt would say, tom), with Vienna playing, I thought woohoo!! I'm going to love this.

The cleverest thing about LoM (and they seem to have done it here as well to great effect) is the period detail. In LoM it was the browns and the flock wallpaper and space hoppers. And here it was the cavern type Italian bar they were drinking in, the clothes -oh my god the clothes were dead on the money - and my favourite the striped duvet covers and sofas, which seemed so modern in 1981.

I like all those touches.

I also like the colours they seem to shoot it in - LoM was very brown and dark and depressing, which did conjure up childhood memories of powercuts and binmen going on strike, while in AtoA the colours seemed lighter and brasher, and very cleverly fit my memory of the period. I don't know how they did that, but it certainly worked for me.

I also LOVED the way they used music - Vienna was no 1 for weeks in 1981, and the minute I heard it playing, I was transported back in time.

But the best use of music was when Alex was confronting the baddy - who in 2008 had shot her and sent her back in time, so she felt sure that facing up to him was her way back (she has an advantage over Sam Tyler in that she's read his file, so she thinks her mind is tricking her and she is fantasing about the whole thing) - and up popped Gene and his two henchmen on a boat, to the tune of No More Heroes. The A Team were back, and with what panache. Fan - bloody - tastic.

Period detail aside, I think they have also pulled off the trick of making the person in a coma who wakes up in a different time zone thing work by giving Keeley a whole set of different dilemmas to Sam.

For a start she is a police psychologist, who has been studying Sam's case, so can work out what has happened to her. But she thinks she is imagining the whole thing which leads her into some great confrontations with Gene Hunt, who kept getting cross that she was using her fingers as quote marks every time she said the name "Gene", and clearly fancies the pants of her. There were many brilliant lines last night, but the one about her giving him the horn made me choke on my wine.

I also loved her slightly insane shouting and the lists she was drawing up to work out what had happened to the evident bemusement of those around her. In fact one of the priceless aspects of it was that no one said to the strange new DI who turned up dressed as a tom, fainted when she hears the name Gene Hunt, kept ranting on about weird psychological stuff, was gloriously rude to Gene thinking he was in her imagination etc etc, excuse me a minute, but you are utterly barking. In real life she'd be committed. In Gene Hunt's world, he decides that despite her being a woman, and wrong about some things, she seemed to understand all that psychology stuff so she was here to stay.

On top of ALL of that, as if there wasn't enough going in, we also have Alex's desperate need to get back to the present for her daughter's birthday, and Gene Hunt's evident grief for Sam Tyler, who didn't do as he was told and drove his car into a river a year previously(fans will know of course, that he got back to the real world and jumped off a building). The message Alex is getting loud and clear, is stay safe and you stick with the boss. Knowing the way LoM worked, this may or may not be the right thing to do.

And of course I haven't even mentioned the gloriously spooky incarnations of the characters from Rainbow, and THAT clown from the David Bowie video. Thanks to my big sister I developed a Bowie crush in the early 80s, and I always hated that clown...


As far as I'm concerned, Ashes to Ashes was a riproaring success. And now I've got another series that I can look forward to next week.

But without the monsters....


Kate Hardy said...

So agree with you there. I loved it. Excellent characterisation (so glad they didn't change Gene), fabulous period detail (OMG, I remember jackets pushed up to the elbow), and I think my husband is going to dust off his enormous box of singles :o)

Loved all the in-jokes, too. Excellent stuff. The DVD box set is a definite pre-order...

Dumdad said...

Thank you for putting the spoiler warning as The Frog Queen and I are just starting Life on Mars Series 2; we loved the first series and I look forward to watching Ashes to Ashes eventually.

Political Umpire said...

I must admit I'm annoyed to have missed both series. Although I obviously remember rather more of the 80s, 1981 is a bit far back for me and, in any event, 70s music was and is better. Well for teenage boys at least ... I mean, Duran Duran weren't Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd, were they?

Jane Henry said...

Kate the jackets of course the jackets!!!

dumdad and PU LoM was MUST SEE TV, and AtoA looks the same... I think its fab.

PU You have made me feel incredibly old and sorry... you're wrong about the music. But maybe you had to be fifteen to really appreciate it!

Duran Duran wasn't a fave with me at the time, though I like the nostalgia of it now of course.
I was a bit of a headbanger in my time I'll have you know (in fact my first boyf looked like something out of Wayne's World and introduced me to the oddity that is Rush), so I am a big Zep fan too, and I like Pink Floyd, though not the really weird stuff.
However, I did like all the girlie stuff too, like Spandau Ballet and Depeche Mode. And Tainted Love is one of my all time favourite songs.

Also love Human League, BananaRama, Eurythmics, Tears for Fears, The Police (of course, what self respecting fifteen year old didn't swoon over Sting), Pretenders, Blondie, Simple Minds, etc etc etc.

There really was so much good music and it was so varied.

And I was young. Which makes ALL the difference.

One of my many ideas for books is going to have a music/rockchick/80s theme... And my ed likes it too, so you never know. That is going to be one self indulgent book if I ever write it!