I've noticed something for quite some time about British Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Mystery novels, films and shows. They almost never have a money shot. Its all build up to absolutely NOTHING. The creators like to build up and add everything up to the kitchen sink but then are at ass end odds how to clear it all up. The Harry Potter series is a prime example of this. To some extent even "The Prisoner" suffers from this problem.
Now to add to piss poor explanations to groovy shit we made up on the fly is the show "Ashes to Ashes". Truthfully, I have no one to blame for my disappointment except myself. I was well aware that "Life on Mars" was fucked up beyond belief. But when "Ashes to Ashes" started I thought, hell maybe there will be some coherent explanation for Sam Tyler. Was there? No fucking way. The explanation for Sam should have been done first season, cleared out then a way paved for the lead in this sequel. But it wasn't. Because then the creators would have had nowhere to go because Alex Drake is a non entity. The only thing she had going for her was that she truly cared for her child which gave her an impetus to wake up from dream land. But even that element was thrown out the window because it was a dilemma that called for a conclusion. And the creators had to stretch this baby out to three seasons.
So we got three seasons of redundancy. Oh and yes, also the possibility of a shag for DCI Gene Hunt.
I was on board for all of this the first season. I remembered Hunt as a character I loved to hate. In Sam's world he was a crooked cop with moments of nobility. But only noble because Sam had to drag him kicking and screaming into doing the right thing. He was also extremely sexist and obnoxious to Annie, one of his ambitious police officers under his direction. That was the Gene Hunt I remembered, loved and hated. But in "Ashes to Ashes", he suddenly morphed into this good guy. Which made the previous series about his questionable work ethics null and void. The fancy smart ass answer to this extreme character change was that Hunt is seen through the eyes a new protagonist. But the real answer was that Gene Hunt became an extremely popular audience favorite. The audience wanted him to be the good guy. So the creators had to retroactively turn the Gene Genie into some kind of wonderful.
Well, I decided to flow with the now heroic Gene Hunt.
I was ambivalent about the attraction they had to add between Hunt and his new colleague Drake. But as their work relationship progressed the attraction angle faded to my relief. But now at the end, this hoary old theme is being pulled out of the writers asses. People want to see GALEX so lets throw it in. Even if it was never an important story factor for the last two fucking years. And to get there they had to get everyone to act out of character. I don't believe for one moment that a woman like Alex Drake would ever give Gene Hunt the time of day. Nor do I believe that Alex Drake is a woman that Gene Hunt would ever have the patience to deal with outside of work or work related activities. But now in the series finale they are slow dancing to "True" (one of the worst 80's musical horrors ever inflicted on human ears). And of course the rival for Gene, a new character called Jim Keats, arrives to break up the romantic moment. Who even trashes his own newly formed characterization by stating that he loved the song "True". This from a character who stated he loved Philip Glass and Elvis Costello.
Oh the humanity!
Now about the 80's theme. It was never an important design element of "Ashes to Ashes". "Life on Mars" really captured the dingy, sad and lonely feel of the mid to late 1970's. Perhaps because Sam Tyler had strong memories of the time in which he lost his father and lived with his struggling single mom. Life on Mars also successfully emulated the 70's cop shows from Great Britain and America. But Ashes to Ashes had nowhere to go with it's era of the early 80's. Its was set too early to go Miami Vice with it and it was too late to capture the Sex Pistol/Screw Disco anarchy in the UK vibe. The show never captures the zeitgeist cultural keystones from the era. We don't hear Blonde, the Go Go's and other selections from popular music. We don't see references to film touchstones of the day like E.T. or even Chariots of Fire. There are no references to the popular 80's cop shows this show is trying to quote. The only reason we know that it is the 1980's is due to Alex Drake's awful wardrobe. Now any modern woman would absolutely refuse to wear 80's fashions or at least attempt a wardrobe with the least amount of spandex. But if the show did that with Drake, there would be no indication at all that it was 1980's. So this show even failed as a tribute to the past.
Because it is now the end, thanks be, we are getting answers that should have been given in season 1. And it is convoluted with the creators adding in useless new tricks to drag out the inevitable. So secondary characters Ray and Chris are seeing strange anomalies and hearing Bowie music just like Sam Tyler did. This leads to embarrassing dialogue about what it all means! Cue angst ridden expressions from Ray and Chris who getting ready to be exposition bots.
The absolute worst has to be the over wrought theme of Gene Hunt being a murderer. No one in their right minds would ever believe this ruse plot point for a moment. The Gene Hunt of this series would never be allowed to be a bad guy. This would have been a believable theme for "Life On Mars" but the Hunt of "Ashes to Ashes" is a saint. So that leaves new character Jim Keats, played wonderfully by Danny Mays, with nowhere to go as a character. He can only act as a hated foil for Gene. He walks randomly in and out of scenes to act dastardly. The only thing he lacks is a handle bar mustache to twist while he laughs evilly. The only place he was allowed to bloom was in his attraction and respect for Alex Drake. But even this has been thrown out of the window at the end.
Well, its a clusterfuck... a car crash in slow motion. And I'll be watching the last show next week. Not because I'm interested in the twoo lub of Alex and Gene, or Ray and Chris floating in stars like HAL, or if Jim Keats is the devil incarnate but because I want to see the final train wreck. There is bound to be more awfulness to groan over and mock. And I couldn't miss that opportunity.
Labels: culture, reviews, television