Monday, May 24, 2010

Living in the past.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of watching the British television series Life on Mars, you’ve missed out. It’s something that is hard to describe, but in a nutshell is a show where a modern day cop is hit by a car and he wakes up in 1973. In the past he’s a cop as well, but it’s a very different world to the one of forensics and procedures… and seatbelts. He’s just trying to figure out what’s happened so he can get back; is he in a coma, traveled in time, or has he gone crazy?

The show is so incredibly well done, with characters that you can’t get enough of. And realizing just how much things have changed – it’s astounding and quite funny, really, in the context of the show.

The defining character was Gene Hunt, the man in charge of the squad when Sam Tyler wakes up after being hit in 2003. He is a bit of an anti-hero with all his machismo and misogyny, but somehow you can’t help but delight in him. His comments are jewels to be admired, no matter how offensive they are. At his heart, he is a good man, but he’s a 1970’s man's-man, make no mistake. And much as I should writhe at his very character, I adore him.

There was a follow up series to Life on Mars called Ashes to Ashes. It gave us back Gene Hunt and some of the other characters we loved from Life on Mars, except now it’s 1981 and the person that showed up in Hunt’s world from the present is a female officer called Alex Drake. That lends to a whole new level of misogynistic issues that are quite fun to watch unfold. It also lends to a sexual tension that was in turn both intriguing and comical.

Ashes to Ashes was quite good, but didn’t quite capture the mystery and intrigue of Life on Mars. The final episode of the series ran this weekend, answering all the questions. For many that is most desirable. For me, however, it was a let down. I loved the mystery left to us at the end of Life on Mars. It was a frustrating sort of exhilaration that I’d take any day over neat-and-tidy, then forgotten.

I mean, I haven’t stopped raving about Life on Mars since I first saw it until now, but with Ashes to Ashes I guess I feel like it was fun and all, but didn’t rivet me in the same enthralling way. Don’t get me wrong, it is far and away better than the majority of shows out there, especially American shows, and indeed I’m sorry it’s over, but it’s answers, while interesting, weren’t all that engrossing. Mystery is my mate, intrigue my seducer, plain an simple.

P.S. Best car chases since Streets of San Francisco in these two series!

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