In the UK Glenister’s character became a national icon thanks to Life on Mars, which followed the adventures of a 21st century cop transported back to the 1970s. In the sequel, again borrowing the title from a David Bowie song, Detective Inspector Alex Drake, played by Keeley Hawe, is thrown back a second from death to 1980s London. She works with Hunt, an unapologetically old-fashioned thug of a cop who is happy to frame the guilty, rough house suspects, stamp all new colleagues on the ‘arse’ with ‘property’ of the Metropolitan cops, and categorize women as either “prosies” or “tarts.”
Part of Hunt’s questionable appeal is just how unapologetic he is when faced with Drake’s psychobabble about victims and criminals and the motives that drive them. While Hawe’s performance at times seems oddly anodyne, she and Glenister inevitably generate the most sparks when clashing over her PC and his decidedly backwards views on sexual politics.
Against a backdrop of 1980s music including The Stranglers, Ultravox and Duran Duran, Hunt’s unshakeable belief in what’s right, in his own masculinity seems almost anachronistic, particularly when compared to the typically anemic British male TV leads that front soulless shows like BBC spook drama MI5. In his Audi quarto and his cowboy boots, Hunt flies round London town issuing choice
Anglo-Saxon vernacular like “bollocks” and “sod it” while Drake fights to keep up. Whether Hawes can bring more of a balance to a show that Glenister force-of-nature performance dominates remains to be seen.
ABC turned Life on Mars into a lightweight retread that’s shortly to be cancelled. While Ashes to Ashes might prove a little hard at times on the Utahn ear, catch the original show before you Yanks get your grubby hands on it, and enjoy one of the more vital shows currently on the tube.
Ashes to Ashes is on Saturday nights at 9pm on BBC America.