on 22 May 2010
The writers of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes do great endings. Who can forget the finale of Life on Mars, or the very satisfying tying up of loose ends in Ashes to Ashes series 1? Series 2 finished on a frustrating cliffhanger, leaving us hungry for this series when, presumably, all would be explained and everything would become clear...and, boy, does it deliver!
It's actually very difficult to write much about it without giving the game away which is a pity because it's only in the last episode when you discover how fiendishly clever it has all been and how many clues were provided along the way. What, for example is 'new guv' Jim Keats's agenda? Why do people keep seeing stars? Who is the mysterious young policeman with half his face blown off who haunts Alex from the first episode? And is Gene Hunt to be trusted?
Gene is even grouchier than usual in this series. It seems he has something on his mind...but what? And what of Sam from Life on Mars? How does he fit into all of this?
My mum reckons that you only need to watch the first and last episodes of each series to know exactly what's going on and that's probably true, but it would be like watching a football match kick off, popping to the pub and then returning five minutes before the final whistle.
Ah yes, the pub...
No, no, no. I really mustn't give anything away. Just watch it. It's great.
Its not very often in a lifetime that event television such as this comes along. Whilst watching the final episode, I almost forgot to breathe and could hear my own heart beating. It was THAT good. (No spoilers here). One moot point- thank God it was BBC and no adverts broke up the tension.
Now I never quite got round to watching Life on Mars. it appealed to me, and my friends all praised it, but I just never got round to it. This in no way spoilt my enjoyment of Ashes to Ashes and Series Three played a blinder.
The loose ends are finally tied up - well the big ones are, but as for the little ones, well, the writers have left enough intrigue for you to mull over for a long time. From almost the first scene in Episode 8 came shock after shock after shock. Who was the body in the shallow grave? Why had Ray, Chris and Shaz all seen stars? Who was Gene Hunt really? and was Jim Keats good or bad? The final episode answered all these questions and its kudos to the writers as well as the actors that it was so electrifying. No weak links here.
Special mention must go to Daniel Mays playing Keats. Right up until the last episode he had me guessing: good or bad? good or bad? When this question was answered he really pulled off some incredible acting. Also excellent werethe outstanding Keely Hawes (isn't she tall? 5.11"?), Ray, Chris and the fabulous Shaz. their performances had everything including chemistry and camaraderie.
But let's centre on the hero to end all heroes, the Gene Genie himself. Unfortunately for the legend that is Philip Glenister he'll have some work to do to avoid being Gene Hunt in everything he does. So iconic was his character and so well loved, and so refreshingly rude and Un-PC that his performance outshines everything and he becomes the star of the series. Indeed of the whole franchise.
As for the other episodes on this DVD, from apisode 1 to episode 8, its like a clever puxzzle. The clues are there, the characters are growing, you can feel the climax building, at first subtly, and then to the tension filled episode 8 where all becomes clear and my word, its beautiful television. The ending was so right. I hope they don't make any more as they pitched this perfectly and I'm sad its over as perfect, thought provoking, intelligent television like this only come along once a decade or two. Breathtaking and emotional.
on 22 May 2010
Now, obviously I cannot rate the DVD, as it has not yet been released. I will, however, try to give you an overview of the quality of the series itself. In one word, it has to be : amazing. Or 'mind-blowing' (ok, it's hyphenated).
Ashes to Ashes, being the spin-off from 'Life on Mars', had a lot to live up to. The standards set by LoM were nothing short of excellent; it was creative, intelligent and entertaining genre-bending television at its finest. A2A was expected to be the greyhound-out-of-the-trap successor, and initially it wasn't. The first series, whilst good TV in itself, found itself on bumpier ground than its predecessor, at least in my eyes. But as it developed, and entered the second series, the writing improved greatly, the direction tightened up, and the plot began to hurtle along, ever raising more questions than it answered and leaving you wanting more. The jaw-dropping series finale sparked much discussion between myself and colleagues.
As such, I'm here to tell you that this third series of Ashes to Ashes (A2A) does not disappoint whatsoever. This may be one of the best series of TV that the BBC has ever aired. It's humorous, suspenseful, moving, and it's got action, mystery and class, but all in just the right measure. One major thing it has going for it is the fact that it is one of the few shows around nowadays that doesn't treat its audience like reality-TV-loving lemons. It's intelligent, so you have to actually think to keep up with the plot, which is more than can be said for most things on the box nowadays.
Picking up straight from where the 2nd series left off, we soon find ourselves back with the team of Fenchurch East (including quite a stylish re-entrance from the Quattro). From there on in, the pace does not let up. With the introduction of a new character in the form of DCI Jim Keats (played superbly, chillingly even, by Daniel Mays), Gene and the gang now have an adversary to play off of, which provides some of the most tense moments I've ever seen on British television. Keats, over the course of the series, serves as the foil for Hunt, in his attempts to subvert and corrupt Gene's world from his position in Discipline & Complaints.
Throughout this 3rd series, the characters evolve in diverse and realistic ways, and we come to know them as human beings. It's this level of empathy with their lives and their emotions that leads to one of the most shocking, startling, and satisfying conclusions I've ever witnessed on television, which, I believe, even trumps the ending of Life on Mars. The audacity and level of complexity behind the finale, and its many implications, cannot garner enough praise from myself.
Much kudos then to all the cast and crew involved in crafting such a fine piece of British TV, that will surely (hopefully) be remembered for years to come. All the main cast deserve some kind of award for their performances here, as they inhabit their characters flawlessly, but perhaps the writers must take the most credit. Their work here is nothing shy of genius; they had the pace spot-on, they knew how to push the audience's buttons, there were more than a few self-referential nods in there, and they knew that people would just not be satisfied until they finally unraveled the mystery at the heart of it all. Many thanks, and congratulations, to Mr Graham, Mr Pharoah and co.
If you've followed this saga all the way from Life on Mars, you'll know that I'm not exaggerating with this review. You owe it to yourself to watch the stunning conclusion to such a heartfelt and human story, that encompasses not only the life of Alex Drake, but also of Sam Tyler. The truth will set you free.
on 25 May 2010
Please note: this IS NOT a review of this DVD, it has yet to be officially released, but an overview of the series as a whole.
Like everyone else here, I too thought that "Life On Mars" really couldn't be bettered as an example of gripping, imaginative and innovative TV. And "Ashes To Ashes" did struggle initially to escape the shadow of that fantastic series and forge its own identity.
As with most trilogies, you set the scene and establish your characters in the first act. The second act tends to be more exploratory in terms of character motivation and background. And the final act moves towards explanation, resolution and conclusion.
The series, for me, really came alive and forged its own unique vision during the second season. Maybe the writing just improved in quality, maybe the actors felt more established in their roles, or maybe the ghost of "Life On Mars" had been laid to rest somewhat, and everyone on the production team just realised that they did actually have something rather amazing on their hands in its own right.
Series Three has been criticised (there was a particularly snotty review in The Observer after the first episode), and overall, I don't think "Ashes To Ashes" has ever been as well received and critically acclaimed as "Life On Mars".
But I don't think the writers did drop the ball - they fleshed out the characters even further, the costumes, props and location departments truly excelled themselves in recreating authentic period detail, the music was simply a joy and the addition of Keeley Hawes to the cast added some wonderful sexual tension!
And, of course, Gene is now one of the iconic characters in British TV, though it was very clever and generous of the writers to emphasise in the final two episodes how much of a team effort it was, that each actor's contribution added something important and valuable to the collective whole.
American TV drama is much praised and the BBC often criticised, but when they get it right they are a match for anyone, anywhere. And a lot of TV is really excellent, but there's not much that is truly outstanding and this series was, perhaps that will only be fully realised now that it's finished.
Cracking one-liners, brilliant music, hilarious fashions and the Quattro - how could it possibly fail with such superb raw material to work with?
Just hope that there will be a complete box set containing all three seasons for a reasonable price at some point!
on 23 May 2010
Wow. Well this is one of the best things that I have ever seen on television! It's funny, intelligent, emotional and thought-provoking entertainment. After watching the last episode, which I do believe was a very fitting ending, (s'all I'll say - I promise) I don't know what'll to do with my Friday nights any more!
The writing is superb, with brilliant quips and one liners from all the characters. I'll let The Gene Genie kindly demonstrate -
`Ray if you come in here again dressed like a maths teacher, I will paint your balls the colour of hazelnuts and inform a bag of squirrels that winter's coming.' I mean that's funny right? Of course it is!
As with the first two series of Ashes to Ashes, you get the best (or worst - depending on your views) of 80's music, 80's fashion, 80's hair-styles ...and 80's eye-shadow. 80's EVERYTHING!! And of course, the mighty Quattro.
The standard of acting is exceptional, not one weak link in the cast. With Philip Glenister commanding our attention as DCI Gene Hunt, with his ever intriguing ambiguous stare, and well... there's just something wonderful about that stare. And then there's the brilliant Keeley Hawes as DI Alex Drake, a fabulous actress, who I think is unjustly underrated - why is she not in more films/tv shows?? It baffles me. Hopefully Ashes to Ashes will provide a (metaphorical) platform for her to display her talents for prospective employers.
With the introduction of Jim Keats, played by the very talented Daniel Mays, it stirs up the dynamics and relationships in Gene's kingdom of Fenchurch East.
The series presents us with plenty of questions, With Drake and Hunt - Will they, won't they?
Who killed who? Who is that? Did you hear that too? Stars? Can you smell that? Was that you? (Last two may be fabrications.. but you'll have to watch it to find out!)
Watch this for some quality British drama, seriously good stuff.
A word in your shell-like pal... WATCH IT!!
on 26 May 2010
I have to say this series was perhaps my favourite out of pretty much anything I've ever seen. Before I critcised Ashes to Ashes for just being a remake of Life on Mars, just a way for TV producers to get a bit more money from the franchise...but I couldn't have been more wrong...
If you watched the absolutely fantastic and mind blowing Life on Mars, and like me and probably half the nation, didn't understand the last episode (as brilliant as it was) you HAVE to watch this series. It makes everything so clear you'll be kicking yourself for not realising it sooner!
Every episode is a complete work of art- puzzle after puzzle after puzzle looped within the story to keep you guessing what the finale will be....What are on the video tapes for Shaz, Chris and Ray? Who is the dead copper who keeps haunting Alex? Where is Sam Tyler and Annie Cartwright? What do the stars symbolize? and so on....and I can tell you now: you WONT be disapointed.
And of course the acting, as always, is superb...
Alex,(As confused and brillantly clever as always)
Gene, (Funny, ruthless but a God-like hero of the series)
Ray,(Although violent and sometimes seems like a 'bent' copper, surprisingly has deep and emotional storylines)
Chris,(Aways the puppy dog brilliantly guilible joker)
Shaz (the heart of the group and as brave as a lion- a brilliant character)
and 'Jimbo' (Who did a good job of making me scream at the TV for someone to punch him!)
They make the programme all the better. The characters develop so much more than they did in Life on Mars...which eventually leads to us finding out a lot more about them than we first expected...
But really, you'll be missing out if you don't watch it. Rarely is TV this emotional, tense and so God damn funny...and although I'm sad this is the last we'll see of the Gene Genie and his team...I'm glad the series got the mind blowing ending it deserved. it will leave you reeling nad your mind spinning for ages to get your head around it all...but trust me, when it all clicks in, you'll realise just what a fantastic programme this is. Now, fire up the Quattro!
The entire series was a masterpiece. My only criticism is that the finale' didn't need the biblical allegory and might have been best served sticking to a psychological setting. The Keats 'Cobra-like' hissing became quite comical at the end therefore the first half of the series is perhaps stronger than the second. I will also now never see a 90s Gene, replete with souped up Ford Cosworth! But Keeley Hawes and Philip Glenister are a double act worthy of the very best traditions in the cop tv pantheon. I never saw Series 2 and 3 when first televised on BBC 1 and have rationed myself to two episodes a week since Christmas. I will genuinely miss Team Quattro. Thanks for entertaining me, some great episodes in here!
i have to admit that when ashes to ashes started, i wasn't overly impressed with it. loved life on mars, thought it was one of the best british tv shows in years, and while i thought ashes to ashes was good, i thought life on mars was the far superior show. however, now i think ashes to ashes has completely surpassed life on mars and the show proves that when we want to, we can make tv every bit as good as the americans. this is sheer class. excellently acted, the cast are terrific, with a brilliant new arrival, daniel mays as jim keats who in my opinion steals the series away from the now legendary phillip glennister's gene hunt. mays gives a very sinister performance as a dci obssessed with bringing down and destroying gene hunt and is a name to watch for in the future. this series does explain everything and you get to find out what happened to sam tyler as keats persuades alex to investigate hunt to find out what happened to him. the answers will shock you and the ending is definately far superior to the dreadfull ending of the american version of life on mars.
I watched on TV and bought the dvds for seasons 1 and 2 and to tell you the truth by the middle of season 2 I was just a bit fed up and the series seemed to have become the usual cops and robbers type of show.
I watched Life on Mar Series one and two on Amazon Instant Video and then Ashes to Ashes and suddenly discovered there was a Season THREE. I watched that for free as well and decided to buy Season 3 to add to my others.
Of course during Season 3 you get to know the secret about SamTyler and almost everyone else in the department in both series.
If you were a fan and like me fell by the wayside - if you have Amazon Prime you can watch this series for free (before they decide to charge for it or you can buy the dvd.
I bought the set with the extras - it arrived yesterday.
I came to click on my order list to do a quick review and found this version with the extras has gone up £5. since I bought it last week.
on 16 June 2010
The third and final series provides closure for both Ashes and its predecessor Life on Mars. As usual the show revolves around routine cop stories set in the 1980s, but as the series tries to tie up the loose ends and on-going plots, the format for the episodes this year is slightly different. Series 2 ended with Alex seemingly waking up in the present day and as it turns out she doesn't spend long coping with modern day life before she's whisked back to the past. But her attitude to the 80s world is now different. No longer is she desperate to get back to Molly at all costs. Now she's more interested in understanding why she appears to have gone back in time. It doesn't take her long to decide that Gene Hunt is the key to that understanding.
Through the previous four series of the franchise Gene has been a flawed hero. He's fiercely loyal to those in his team while engaging in enough dodgy and violent activities to appear corrupt to those who aren't. This series presents the case for him being corrupt by introducing the new regular character of Keats, a member of the D&C (insert joke here) who has taken it upon himself to expose Hunt. His role is essentially the same one as Supermac had in series 2, but unlike Mac who fizzled out, Keats grows in strength. His character is the best thing about the final series, bringing an original angle on creepiness as he oozes bile and doubt from his boiling hot basement office. Practically every line he utters is a fourth-wall breaking narrative directed to the viewer and he creates an effective and disturbing adversary. Keats ensures that Hunt's character comes under close scrutiny and the question he raises is does Hunt have dark secrets, but you'll have to watch the series to get the answer.
The other characters also get time to let us understand who they are. This is done by having whole episodes centring on Chris, Ray, Shaz and even Vince. To my mind these episodes are variable in quality as we've spent several years with these people in which we've only seen them at work. So getting details of their lives and what makes them tick felt unnecessary as I already understood everything I wanted to know about them. Chris and Ray in particular are dependable blokes with blokey needs and blokey aims in life. I didn't need to understand their inner turmoil and angst. But the good thing is these details about their lives leads to somewhere interesting and makes the ultimate pay-off work.
With the other characters getting more screen time than previously, Alex stops being the main character and less time is devoted to her plight. She doesn't get messages on her tv any more and she doesn't spar with Hunt quite so much, but again her acceptance of the past world has a good reason. The show also carefully ekes out the elements that will resolve the central mystery of what the franchise has been about. Although I won't discuss that, I'll say that the ending explains everything in an unambiguous way that most viewers liked even if it wasn't the ending the series was working towards from the beginning. This explanation increasingly ties in with Life on Mars using obvious ways such as the welcome return of Litton, Hunt's old adversary, and using subtle ways such as the spooky use of the Life on Mars song.
The show also links in with its predecessor with darker photography that turns away from the lighter hues of the earlier series. In the end the stated aim that this year would ultimately feel like it's series 5 of Life on Mars is justified. After an inconsistent first series and a stronger second series, the final Ashes series provides everything anyone could want in wrapping up the mystery and the characters' lives. It's sad to think that Gene Hunt will never again have another word in our shell-likes.