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...