Ashes to Ashes Review: Less the 80’s, more the Hate-ies

April 20, 2009 by  
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ASHES TO ASHES, Monday 20th April, BBC1, 9.00PM Alert Me

If I inexplicably woke up in 1982 I’d like to think my first port of call would be the bookies to put all the money I could muster on Italy to win the 1982 World Cup final, oh I don’t know, 3 – 1. Then I’d probably go and see E.T.

Not DI Alex Drake though, she’s too concerned with getting back to the future, oh – and solving crime while she’s waiting.

The strength of this series – a spin-off of the excellent Life On Mars – has never been the clunky all-is-not-as-it-first-appears storylines which make gratuitous use of unnecessary dialogue to keep the plot moving along: “So you think Smith was actually murdered to prevent him testifying against his former business partner who is now holding our only witness hostage in the old biscuit factory??

The real joy comes from sending up the styles and attitudes of the 1980s. In this first episode of the second series soppy man-child DC Chris Skelton sports an amazing peroxide ‘flock of seagulls’ hairdo while Detective Gene Hunt terrorises London in a Hot Rod Red Audi Quattro which corners like a stuck pig.

Bizarrely the opening scene features Hunts’ gang being chased through a sewer by a tidal wave of excrement, and while it may be too harsh to call this a good metaphor for the next hour, it definitely lacks the originality and swagger of Life On Mars.

Stomping through the episode like a pantomime dame, Gene Hunt parodies the tough-talking, rule-breaking bigot detective he previously made his own, while DI Drake rolls her eyes and sways between competency and bewilderment.

While the comedy aspects make Ashes to Ashes frequently enjoyable viewing, there still seems to be a great rush to wrap up before the end credits. As with any well established format the same old jokes soon begin to wear thin and the race to resolve Drake’s time travel dilemma is about as tense as a dead-leg.

Jack McKay