28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Just Awesome, 31 Aug. 2007
People always complain that there is a lot of rubbish on modern TV. And then something like "Life on Mars" comes around and, wow, it blows you away. Somehow I missed both series when they were originally broadcast. One episode on the BBC4 rerun and I was hooked. The writing is taut, the production is paced, gripping and totally authentic, and the actors all perform out of their skins. This really is as near to perfection as you can get.
For me, Series 2 gets the nod over Series 1 simply because all the characters are now fully bedded in and we can watch them growing as people with every episode.
Sam Tyler and Gene Hunt, the leading characters, are flawed but totally sympathetic, which is a tribute to the actors playing them. Sam may be a gratingly PC modern policeman but we empathise with his decency, kindness and isolation in a strange world. Gene may make us blanche, but we know that he too is a decent man who has to be hard to keep a bad world away from good people. Forget all the questions still unanswered at the end of the saga: for me the biggest is why on earth Philip Glenister has not yet won a BAFTA.
But it's not just the leading two men turning in the stellar performances. The lovely WDC Annie Cartwright (she could grind corn at my windmill any day) not only provides the love interest but lightens the tone in what could otherwise have been a grim show. The sexism she faces is shocking, yet her response is to win over her colleagues by making herself indispensable. By the end of the show, she still gets the banter but not worse than any other male character. In other words she's fully accepted. It would have been easy to make her a raging feminist who gets to rub men's noses in the dirt, but the approach taken by the writers is far more subtle and worthwhile.
I think "Life on Mars" worked best when it capitalised on its humour. The famous Camberwick Green sequence is wonderful. And as for Gene Hunt at the wife-swapping party ... His body language as he follows Mrs Luckhurst to the bedroom is worth the price of the DVD on its own. Hilarious.
Re. the last ever episode, thankfully it didn't close like "Blake's Seven". That would have been a slap in the face to the audience. In fact Episode 8 might be the best of the whole lot as the show comes to a spectacular end. "Ashes to Ashes" has an awful lot to live up to and I just can't wait to see the Gene Genie in 1981.
As for the DVD features there are several excellent behind-the-scenes documentaries where the enthusiasm of everyone connected to the show comes across. There is also a hilarious double act in the cast interviews from Dean Andrews (Ray) and Marshall Lancaster (Dave), and I just hope that "Ashes to Ashes" can exploit them even better than "Life on Mars". It's just a shame that there are no episode-by episode commentaries, particularly as the show reached its climactic end. But that doesn't change the fact that if you don't buy both series then you really must be mad or in a coma ...