Back To The Eighties: The Gene Genie Is Back

Posted on April 15, 2010

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There are superimposed images flying around the internet at the moment of David Cameron’s head on Gene Hunt’s (Philip Glenister) body, the point of it, to suggest that voting Conservative in the upcoming British elections would send the country back to the Thatcherite ways of the 1980s.

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And I have to wonder about the presumed Labour campaigner who started circulating these images because they were clearly stark raving mad. Or have been asleep in the House of Lords for so long that they have no concept of the current pop culture trends in their country. Because, despite the sexism, racism, pig-headedness and insane political incorrectness, everyone loves Gene Hunt. The Telegraph goes so far as to describe him as a ‘national hero’ and a ‘sex symbol’. Talk about scoring an own goal. But if nothing else we now realise that politics breathes stupidity everywhere, not just in Ireland.

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In a way, this is a review I’ve been waiting to write since Series 2 ended but in another way, I really don’t want to be doing it because it’s just another sign that in a few short weeks, this series will be gone for good. After the phenomenal success of Life on Mars (which, in my opinion is one of the best series to ever grace our TV screens) a spin-off in a later era always seemed likely but Ashes to Ashes first series was plagued by two factors:

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1. It wasn’t Life on Mars.

2. It didn’t have John Simm and people didn’t warm to new time-travelling copper Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) as quickly as they did to Sam. It was like being given a Choc Ice when what you really wanted was a Magnum.

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So series one, despite getting good ratings had indifferent reviews. Series two exploded onto the screen to the sound of Duran Duran and the roar of the much coveted Audi Quattro (The LOM Cortina mustn’t have passed the NCT) and was infinitely better than series one. In fact at points, it was so good, it was threatening to be better than Life on Mars. Alex Drake became distinctly more ‘Magnum-esuqe’ aswell.

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Series 2 left a lot of unanswered questions and put Alex in another coma (sure we can hardly keep track of who’s where at this stage…) and Series 3, at just two episodes old hasn’t really answered them yet. The introduction of a disfigured ghostly policeman haunting Alex has A2A forums collapsing under the weight of the theorising. Alex has woken up, has a new haircut and is having some curiously hilarious dreams about Gene Hunt and the rest of her CID colleagues.

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The introduction also of DCI Jim Keats (Danny Mays) from Discipline and Complaints sets Alex on an investigation into the death of Sam Tyler, which it seems, was not so cut and dry and may have involved his former DCI. Mays as Keats is a fantastic addition, though perfectly charming in more ways than one, his darker turns when discussing or talking to Gene are wonderfully sinister and hateful.

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More than anything though, there’s a slightly off feel to the series so far, which we can only assume is intended. Ray has become more competent or at least is making the effort to be, Shaz is fighting back and Chris seems to have gotten smarter. As Alex remarks, ‘did your IQ double while I was in a coma?’ (A phrase that perhaps some of the earlier mentioned Lords might use…) The only ones who haven’t really changed are Gene and Alex which will probably be significant later in the series; if there’s one thing I’ve found from following LOM and A2A it’s that almost nothing is coincidental, highlighting again the amount of detail and intricacies that go into the planning.

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Like say, Lost, (only much less infuriating and twice as intriguing) you can sit down and try to fit the pieces of the puzzle together but there are infinite possibilities to consider and lots of questions: who is Alex’s disfigured policeman? Did Gene kill Sam? If I get hit by a car or shot, can I please wake up in 1983 to the sound of Ultravox? Is the Quattro pink or red? And perhaps the one thing we all want to know (but at the same time, don’t) who is Gene Hunt?

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The notion of a 90s spin off has been rejected by almost everyone involved so in six weeks time, an era of television will end. Ashes to Ashes finale will reveal (all?) the answers to the above questions. If it ends half as well as Life on Mars did, I think the forums may just explode.

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Oh, and David Cameron will probably get elected as well.

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Ashes to Ashes airs Friday night on BBC 1 at 9pm.


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