Friday, April 09, 2010

Must Watch Friday - Ashes To Ashes (and a bit of Dr Who)

PHS Columnist Kate Walker is looking forward to the latest series of a couple of of her favourite TV dramas.

A couple of weeks ago I looked at my April PHS slot with rather a sense of dread. My ‘must watch’ choices - Law and Order UK and Being Human had both finished their current series. There was nothing to make me want to book my seat on the settee any evening of the week. So what was I going to write about? I had no idea. But then the BBC came to my rescue. Last week it launched not one, but two new series of favourite shows. The first is the third and final series of one great programme, the second the 750 somethingth episode in one sense, but the very first in another.

The second series was the brand new Dr Who – another series of this programme in a l-o-n-g line that stretches right back to 1963. This was the very first episode with the brand new Doctor played by Matt Smith who took over from David Tennant ( pause to mourn the loss of that particular incarnation of the Doctor). There has only been this one episode so far so it’s difficult to say exactly how well the new incarnation works. I loved the first appearance, but will need to wait and see how he settles into the role, and grows into the part before I can definitely decide what I thin. But so far so good – and very definitely a ‘must see’ for some weeks to come. But one thing about the new series is that I love the way that it shows how something that is so consistently popular can transcend time and date, adapt to fashions and different time periods, new decades – and a new century. It brings a freshness and new vitality to the role – and yet remains essentially the same – very much like category romance really.

The other series – well, what else could it be but the third and final (sob!) visit to Fenchurch East police district where Detective Inspector Alexandra Drake (Keeley Hawes) found herself in the decade that fashion forgot - 1983. And a third and final series of Ashes to Ashes spent in the abrasive, totally politically incorrect but totally absorbing and often laugh-aloud amusing company of the fabulous Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt – the brilliant Philip Glenister.

If you’ve never seen this series, then trying to explain it makes it sound – er well – crazy to say the least. It follows on from the equally brilliant and totally original Life on Mars starring Philip Glenister again, but this time with John Sim as Sam Tyler. Ashes to Ashes tells the fictional story of Alex Drake a female police officer in service with London's Metropolitan Police who is shot in 2008, and inexplicably regains consciousness in 1981.

The series' first episode revealed that in the present day, Drake has been studying records of the events seen in Life on Mars. Upon waking in the past, she is shocked to meet returning character Gene Hunt of whom she has learned from her research. Throughout the series, it is ambiguous to both Drake and the audience whether the character is dead or alive in the present day.

With a cast of great actors, brilliant scripts and fantastic personalities – as well as Hunt and Alex there are Detective Sergeant Ray Carling (Dean Andrews) Detective Constable Chris Skelton (Marshall Lancaster) and WPC Sharon (Shaz) Granger (Montserrat Lombard). And for this new series the introduction of a new and totally ambiguous character of Disipline and Complaints Office Jim Keats (Daniel Mays) who may prove to be the villain or the hero of the whole series. – there is a fabulous soundtrack of songs from the ‘80s, fashions that will make you wince (or hide your head in shame at the thought that once upon a time, you actually wore that stuff – or was that just me?). There are some brilliant one liners, great car chases (with Gene Hunt in his pride and joy the Audi Quattro)

This is the final series so there is much to tie up and explain - not least the mysterious stories that have leached into this series from the original Life on Mars. What happened to Gene Hunt years back? Who is the ‘ghost’ of the young policeman who haunts Alex – and is Sam Tyler (John Sim in Life on Mars) actually alive or dead? Come to think of it- is anyone actually real and alive or are they all created by the delirium in Alex’s mind as she recovers from being shot?

Confusing ? Yes. If you’re not careful you can get absorbed in the Police Drama aspect of things and miss out on the clues as to what is really going on. Or just watch the interaction between the characters – particularly the growing sexual tension between Alex and Hunt that surely must boil over soon. But most of all you can just get lost in admiration of Philip Glenister’s creation of a real alpha male who is ambiguous as can be, arrogant, sexist, never heard of the idea of political correctness but is strong, protective and fiercely loyal - and has stolen the heart of every woman I know who has watched this programme. In fact he’s become so much of a folk hero that the announcement of the General Election in the UK resulted in the Conservative leader, David Cameron being posed on the bonnet of the red Quattro in two posters already – one for and one against the Conservative party!

The third series is only one episode in and already I’m addicted. I also want to go back and watch the other 2 series straight through to see if I can make head or tail – ahem – find the clues that might tell me where this one is heading.

Ashes To Ashes star Dean Andrews has promised that fans will be "really happy" with the show's final episode. In an interview, he explained: "Everything is tied up. You get all of the answers from Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes. I think they're all given within this final series and you realise what it was all about."

Asked about the moment he read the final script, Andrews commented: "You kind of look at it and go, 'That's genius - I'd not thought of that at all'. I hadn't, anyway - but maybe I'm a bit stupid! I just thought it was a great ending. I thought, 'That answers everything'. I think everyone will be really happy."

I – well, I was going to say I can’t wait, but actually I can. I’m dying to know how it’s all tied up but first I want to enjoy the experience of watching it all happen. So that’s my Friday evenings booked for the next seven weeks – Friday nights, 9pm. No one phone me then - you’ll not be popular!

But then I don’t suppose anyone else in the UK would even think of phoning me then – they’ll all be watching Ashes to Ashes too.

Kate's latest Presents EXTRA title The Konstantos Marriage Demand is still available in America and on eHarlequin of Her new release in the UK is a bit different. The By Request 3 in 1 anthologies are usually a mixture of different books by 3 different authors but Claimed by The Sicilian is all a reprint of 3 of Kate's bestselling stories with sexy Sicilian heroes. This book contains Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride, The Sicilian's Red-Hot Revenge and The Sicilian's Wife.

You can find out more about Kate and her books on her web site - and the really up to date stuff is on her blog.


  1. Love Gene Hunt! Glad I'm not the only one who has a secret crush on him. . . He's somehow horrible and charismatic at the same time. I have two more episodes left with Life on Mars and I'm looking forward to and dreading them.
    Ashes to Ashes is not out in the U.S. yet (double sob), but I've got it saved on my Netflix Queue.

  2. My two favorite shows: Doctor Who and Ashes To Ashes. Also loved Life On Mars, because John Simm = wonderful male beauty. Wish BBC America would put these on...they've only aired the first season here in the US. Grrr. Mostly because I find Phillip Glennister terribly sexy.

    I really love Matt Smith as the Doctor. I'm hoping Moffat doesn't have Amy Pond fall in love with him and revamp the whole "Rose" twist that hampered Tennant's run. I miss David so much, but my fingers are crossed that his pilot here in the US will get picked up.

  3. As you know, Kate, I am a long time fan of Life on Mars and Philip Glenister is one of my favourite actors. I think Gene Hunt's appeal has to do with his utter loyalty to his team and his integrity and his code of honour.

    I am just enjoying the ride of the new series.

    Matt Smith as the new Doctor was MUCh better than I thought he would be. And Amelia/Amy Pond great.

  4. Great blog Kate. Ashes to Ashes is on the Sky + player. Found out that Foyles War is back on Sunday too. Can't wait for that one either. Caroline x

  5. Hi Jill you're definitely not the only one with a crush - not so secret! - on Gene Hunt. I'm not sure if I feel sorry for you that you haven't got Ashes to Ashes yet - or envious of the fact that you have all 3 series to come! Enjoy them. I think you will

  6. ' Mistress' - I so agree. John Simm is just brilliant as an actor too and anything he does just has me transfixed. I'm hoping to see his Hamlet on stage in the Autumn - want to come?

    I was missing David T but the opening episode with Matt S had so much potential and room for growth that I'm really looking forward to how it develops - like you though I'm hoping it doesn't turn into a 'Dr falls in love with companion' regular thing. There are more emotions than that!

    But it's goign to be fun seeing how they both work out

  7. Hi Michelle - greta minds think alike - we had almost the same post today! Totally agree about the Gene Hunt code of honour - it might not always be what we've come to expect as 'correct' but that's so much of the appeal of it.

    I love the new character of Keats too - he brings something new to the mix

    And yes, I enjoyed the new Doctor - as I said - will enjoy watching him grow (I hope)

  8. Mrs HARTIN! How great to see you in your new persona! It's wonderful to be able to Sky+ (or Virgin+) isn't it? I can work better in the evenings now! And ye there's Foyle too - I must tell Anne McAllister about that - she's a fan

  9. I had never heard of Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes. I need to get with it. But I'm looking forward to the new Dr. Who. But it's not here till the 17th.
    Thanks, Kate!

  10. I have all the Foyle's War series on DVD now, Kate. So I can indulge whenever I want. Hard to beat Michael Kitchen. I did really enjoy Life on Mars, though. And yes, Gene Hunt is memorable. There's a power in Philip Glenister's rendition of him that was lacking in Harvey Keitel's US version (though HK is certainly no slacker in the acting dept -- just that PG has a lock on that character).

    I'll be sure not to call you at 9 tonight!

  11. This is a total disaster though, isn't it?

    Friday, ASHES TO ASHES.
    Sunday, FOYLES WAR.

    So, exactly how much writing am I going to get done this weekend, when I would normally be hitting the keyboard each evening?

    It's awful, that long stretch of 'nothing good on telly' that seems to drag on forever between Christmas and Easter. But at least evening writers can crack on with their work at those times ...

    Bolli-knickers x

  12. Great post, Kate. Thanks. I grew up with Dr Who and am looking forward to seeing what the new Dr is like, especially as I loved David Tennant in the role. The new series isn't screened till next weekend.

    I hadn't even realised there was a new series of Ashes to Ashes. Great! I'll be watching out of it in Australia.

    BTW Kate, I love the cover of your 'Claimed by the Sicilian'!