Friday, February 08, 2008

A Nice Drop Of Bolly

Ashes To Ashes didn’t disappoint. Not at all.

If anything it hit the ground running with its shoulder pads glistening in the eighties sunshine. Not unlike Keeley Hawes’ character, DI Drake, in fact. She was sussed, analytical, self aware and responded with breathtaking intelligence to her predicament.

She was also as foxy as hell. As one of Gene Hunt’s sidekicks, Ray Carling, so eloquently put it: she’s got an amazing pair of puppies.

To be fair this comment was provoked somewhat by the fact she’d made her grand entrance into 1981 dressed as a high class hooker. A sure-fire way to grab everyone’s attention. I must admit I found myself wondering if this guise was a cheeky play on Keeley’s name – Keeley Hawes.


Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

Anyway, I admit I had reservations regarding Ashes To Ashes. Life On Mars was such an amazing show that I couldn’t help but feel that any spin-off would be at best second rate and a cheap, easy-write tie-in to boot. So it was really great to discern that Ashes To Ashes has enough strength and power of its own to stand on its own two feet and give Life On Mars a bloody good run for its money. There’s a different feel and look to the show – not just because of the eighties mis-en-scene – but also embedded in the writing itself. The style is lighter and more humorous though without any loss of depth. The dialogue is sharp and slick. The action has substituted a little of the stodgy 70’s grit with an injection of eighties gloss and glitter. And the music... ah the music is wonderful. This was my era. It feels like coming home.

Just hearing The Passions’ I’m In Love With A German Film Star sent shivers down my spine. Dedicated readers of this blog will know how much I adore this track...

Philip Glenister as Gene Hunt is brilliant. Brooding, uncool yet cool, flippant, sexist, bullish and the most quotable cop on TV since, well, since John Thaw in The Sweeney. But there’s a softer side to him now too. He’s more aware of himself. Aware of the constraints that his police force now operate under. There’s a caring side to balance out the tit-grabbing misogynist – the scene where he puts a blanket over the sleeping Drake was a nice touch.

The references to Sam Tyler from Life On Mars are intriguing too and up the mystique. Apparently after 7 years with Hunt’s team he died... but no body was ever found. This leaves us to speculate pleasurably on his whereabouts – has he died, passed over, moved on to somewhere else? Who knows? It’s just nice to wonder.

Mostly though Ashes To Ashes works so well and so boldly because of Keeley Hawes’ canny portrayal of DI Drake. She’s not as confused or as lost as Sam. She’s sussed. She’s quick and intelligent. Razor sharp in fact. She knows exactly where she is and has some idea of what she needs to do to get herself out of it. Her continual wry analysis of her predicament, far from lumbering us with a tedious, unnecessary narrative, actually lends the show a witty, incisive underpinning. It also adds a fabulous fire and panache to her interactions with the dour Gene Hunt (who is self aware and wry in a different way).

In fact the relationship between Drake and Hunt is the real star of the show. Mutual attraction and revulsion is equal measure. Sparks and spit flying with every word and look. Marvellous. Full of potential and great to watch. I’m not sure who is going to hit who first.


I’ve a feeling that the further adventure of Gene Hunt and “Bollinger Knickers” are going to become essential viewing over the next few weeks. I’m breaking out the shoulder pads already...


The Poet Laura-eate said...

Most enjoyable if a little over-contrived this time, I reckon.

And Philip Glennister is ace! Great to see him become such hot property all of a sudden, he deserves it.

John Thaw & David Jason were/are great, but I do like to see other actors getting the prime parts as well!

Steve said...

I agree. Philip Glenister has been around for years - nice to see him getting some of the feedback and recognition that he so richly deserves. But at the same time I hope that Gene Hunt doesn't become an albatross around his neck... however, he seems a very clued up guy in interviews so hopefully he won't let that happen...

Anonymous said...

Yes, he is brilliant. I just love him! I was worried they might have toned him down too much but they hadn't.

And Keeley was everything you said she was - very sexy indeed!

Loved all the red too - I remember going for red accessories in the 80s - I had a phase of wearing one red shoe and one black. Oh dear!

Not such a fan of the music though - Ultravox's Vienna is one of my most hated tracks of all time!

Steve said...

Midge Ure was embarrassingly pompous and had a silly moustache... but I do, I admit, have a soft spot for Vienna even though it is an utter nonsense of a song. The eighties was the period of my musical self discovery so nearly all the tracks bring back a memory or two for me... I'm hoping Echo Beach from Martha & The Muffins will feature at some point. And some Talk Talk would be nice too.

Loved Keeley's off the shoulder baggy top... and the fact she spent the entire episode walking around in suspenders and mini skirt. Mesmeric ain't the word. She can feel my collar anytime... not sure I'd want to be interrogated by Mr Hunt though; he mentioned something about inventing the bruiseless goolie slap in last night's episode. I'm guessing it's not nice.

Anonymous said...

haha I don't think we have compatible musical tastes, Steve - I also hate Echo Beach! But I think we share similar tastes in women!

Anyway, I must stop popping over to peep at Keeley and get on and make some supper or my children will riot!

Steve said...

At least we share a dislike of Whitesnake Gina... that counts in my book!

As for the kids... hey. It's Keeley Hawes. I'm sure they'd understand!

TimeWarden said...

Terrific episode. Hope the rest is as good... I'm a little concerned that the next one's about Princess Di's wedding, as I'm not her greatest fan, and the synopsis suggests Gene wants the day to run smoothly whereas I don't think the Manc Lion would give a toss!

Steve said...

I don't think he would either but I think he does give a toss about his job and this will be a spur for him to get it right... not to mention the fallout he'd have to deal with if something goes wrong. I'm sure he'd see Princess Di as another bolly knickered bird anyway...!

I loved Gene's reference to himself as the A Team in this week's episode - and then proving it by spraying bullets everywhere without killing a single person!

Glenda Young said...

It was a little contrived and no doubt will continue to be so but by 'eck, it was great fun to watch.

Steve said...

I totally agree, Nora. On both counts. ;-)

Daisy said...

i'm sorry i havent been posting on your site recently but i don't have access to those shows and literally don't know what you are discussing...just wanted you to know that i wasn't boycotting you...i just don't know what to say :)

Steve said...

Daisy, thank you so much for dropping by to say hi. I didn't think you were boycotting me for an instance! Nice to know though! ;-)

Old Cheeser said...

I enjoyed it although the plot was somewhat formulaic and I admit I switched off a few times. 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.

There was also a very strong feeling of deja vu about the whole thing, namely the "being transported to another time zone" plotline and all the subsequent weirdness that Alex was subjected to - just like "Life on Mars". I hope we get some kind of coherent explanation at the end of the series this time round! "Life on Mars" left things very open-ended indeed.

I agree Keeley H was pretty foxy - and 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 - as fun as the character is, he's not much of a horndog (in my book anyhow...)However I can see the story being pitched that way - the love/hate relationship between them like ahem, Dempsey and Makepeace...remember them?

Steve said...

I do indeed remember Dempsey & Makepeace. It seemed to gritty and so "real" at the time but now looks hopelessly pantomime... though Glynis Barber did look amazing with that hair and that pout. I think the writers of Ashes To Ashes are wise enough to keep Hunt and Drake in each other's faces but out of each other's pants. You're right, it would be a spectacle to awful to contemplate let alone look upon... though if Keeley was wearing suspenders and a nice basque I might just force myself to take a peek or three. Purely for science you understand.

The David Bowie clown is very scary. Almost more frightening that the real thing... ;-)