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Like a bullet to your brain

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Fair play, it was always going to be difficult to match our expectations when coming up with the sequel to the marvellous Life on Mars but it seems to me that the writers didn't even give themselves a fighting chance.

While the seventies-set show owed much to and indeed paid homage to the gritty The Sweeney, a show with great depth and “realism”, it seems that Ashes to Ashes is taking insubstantial flash eighties drivel like Cat's Eyes and far more notably Dempsey and Makepiece as its jumping-off point.

Sadly those shows seemed like total drivel back in the day and they will even more so now, as they make their inevitable reappearance on ITV4 or somewhere in the wake of this. Tragically, if you take your initial reference point from something so obviously wrapped up in style rather than substance, it can come as no surprise if the results are somewhat disappointing.

One of the delights, indeed the major hook of the tale of Sam Tyler was the mystery of what had happened to him, something they managed to keep bubbling away until the final episode. Here, unless there's a major twist coming, we know exactly what's going and worse still so does main protagonist Alex. All the fun of trying to work out what's happening has been taken away.

Worse than that though, the original show was very faithful to it's own conventions, crucially that we as viewers could only see what Sam could see. They even meticulously worked that logic very cleverly around the Sam Tyler-lite episode in season two. Shoving in scenes in which Alex is not present - such as the one where Chris manages to get his WPC kidnapped – just tramples all over that rule and makes the thing feel like a cheap attempt to cash in the original. The care that was put in previously just doesn't seem to be there this time around.

Biggest problem of all though is the new Gene Hunt. I say new because while the one we all became attached to was a well-rounded character, the sheriff in town keeping his streets clean by whatever methods he could get away with, here we have in his place a sound bite-barking caricature of the original, a cartoon Gene, whose every entrance into a scene seems to be heralded by an over-the-top fanfare. His reuse of the phrase “armed bastards” within seconds of his first appearance only seemed to reinforce the fact that thoughts of originality – the very thing that made Life on Mars so must see – was completely out of the window.

As to cultural references being anchored in 1981, forget it. Much of the background music seems to come from the late seventies while Alex refers to post 1981 events and no one seems fazed.

Happily Ray Carling remains very much Ray Carling and his eighties restyling is spot on. Unhappily Chris has been saddled with a catchphrase “Roger that” and the highly believable well-meaning Detective Constable willing to learn new techniques has become a clown, and a gun-toting clown at that.

I suppose what put the the tin lid on it for me was when Alex was trying to analyse her situation and inadvertently wrote the word “dead” on the whiteboard. It was all highly reminiscent of the scene in Carry on Screaming where Harry H. Corbett and Peter Butterworth end up writing “Foul Feet Smell Something Horrible” on their blackboard.

The energy and gravitas that John Simm brought to the party has been replaced by daft set pieces and highly unrealistic gun fights.

What will save things is if Keeley Hawes can manage to win our hearts and make us care about what happens her. Precious little evidence of that in the opener.

So you'd think from all that ranting that I think it's a terrible show but I actually don't. For all its multitude of faults, it's still vastly more watchable than ITV's Honest or the bizarre The Palace. Its only real crime is that it's not brilliant and how much TV drama is these days?

Soapy dopey

I've seen Summer Strallen on the West End stage and was most impressed. Surprising then that she was so abysmal on Hollyoaks. Can we please get back to storylines and casting being based on creativity and talent rather than publicity stunts? I suspect not.

It's easy to see how Ryan and Alex could have been mixed up in Coronation Street as they are both so dull and annoying. Anyone else getting fed up of seeing Michelle on the verge of tears all the time? Why are they dragging this one on for so long? WE DON'T CARE. I care even less about Violet and her pregnancy. Perhaps it's time for a Coronation Street coach crash to get rid of some deadwood.

Talking of deadwood, Liam's off at the end of the year to avoid typecasting. Is he worried he'll be cast as “gormless northerner” for the rest of his career? Perhaps it's right to worry but I'd bet me beer money that his next role will be either “injured gormless northerner” in Casualty or “gormless criminal northerner” in The Bill.

He might end up in Heartbeat of course. I wonder what they'll get him to play in that.

Dafter things were going on in EastEnders when Duggie – the lunatic who held a siege in the Queen Vic and shot Michelle Fowler – strolled back into the pub and no one noticed. He's calling himself Roger and selling dodgy merchandise to Stacey but it's definitely him. Did producers really think we'd not notice the fact that they've recast an actor who played such an iconic role. It really is an insult to the audience.

Almost as much of an insult are the cringeworthy scenes of Ian Beale and his relentless pursuit of the “pink pound”.

Emmerdale was edge-of-the-seat stuff as Val had her cataracts done. Not. This soap is only really worth watching when someone dies or there is a spectacular stunt. Worth watching most weeks then.

You can find the perfect blend

There was no major goodbye to Neighbours despite the fact that it's been a cornerstone of BBC schedules for over twenty years. The only acknowledgement that it was going at all was a voice-over reminding us that The Weakest Link would be on from Monday. You'd presume that anyone remotely interested in that would have been tuned to BBC Two at the time.

The change of channels may actually result in me dipping back into a show I haven't bothered with on a regular basis for years, partially because it now seems as though every episode will be available hundreds of times a week.

To acclimatise myself I attempted to sit through an episode of Home and Away but I could only stick it for ten minutes. I was shocked to see that Irene's still in it. I'd have thought she'd have been embalmed by now, it certainly looked as though she had.

Thunder in the mountains

Frosty Doctor Toyah tackled her anti-social tendencies by putting herself into the loop in Casualty. Unfortunately the loop was attached to the ceiling.

Cue an episode that felt more like a DVD extra than a proper episode as we got to revisit almost every episode since September in a whistlestop tour of her Holby career, showing us why we should have been rooting for her rather than hissing whenever she appeared on screen. Well, almost, because when she described herself as a cold fish it was really, really hard to disagree.

Like the best Easter Eggs we got to see bits of previously unseen footage like an ill-fated flirtation with Histology and a touching friendship with a surgeon suffering from cancer – very much an analogy for the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Pressures of work and an inability to make the friends that could have provided vital support lead Toyah to an inevitable conclusion and I probably wouldn't have cared less except that Georgia Taylor was absolutely brilliant in the role, saying far more with her eyes than she'd managed with pages and pages of dialogue.

It would have been a brilliant way to go out of the series on her shield but cut to the final scene and it turns out she's not actually died. Well not yet anyway. What a swizz!

What might have been a very neat piece of television was marred because they kept cutting to pointless scenes with the paramedics which just felt like padding and scenes in the pub which added nothing to the drama.


Flippin' 'eck Tucker

“Tucker's luck has finally run out.” I've nicked that line from somewhere – can't remember where, sorry - because I really like it.

I refer of course to the news that Grange Hill is being axed after three decades. I have very fond memories of the show, its first series began just a few short months after I started “big school” and I readily identified with many of the characters and situations.

So well crafted were the storylines and so good were many of the kids who performed in it that I found myself continuing to view well into young adulthood.

I've no idea whether the show remained relevant to young people in its later years but I am sure that its demise is linked to the abandonment of programming for anyone over ten and under eighteen in British broadcasting. Surely if the BBC is there for anything, it's to plug the gaps that can no longer be filled by commercial interests.

It seems however that it would rather persist with BBC Three and compete head on with the likes of MTV and E4 – potentially making those services less commercially viable in the process - than take its responsibilities as a public service broadcaster seriously. Older children are being ignored by mainstream broadcasting and I truly believe that this can have and is having a detrimental effect on our society.

More tea vicar

I've had to buy quality newspapers to get a true understanding of the furore over Rowan Williams' speech. The quality of the television news coverage of his thoughts has been almost as misleading and inflammatory as that of some of the tabloids.

We really have dumbed down.

Bits 'n' Bobs

When I was a seven-year-old, I used to cower in terror at some of the papier-mâché models in Doctor Who. Kids these days don't seem phased by the CGI monsters in Primeval, they just want to know when they can get the game for their PSPs and Wiis.

Caroline hit Rex with a tennis racket this week, I've been wanting to do that to Connor for two series.

Is The One and Only beyond saving? Possibly not. Put that on ice and it would be funny.

Forget paper bad guy Jason and waste of space Ruthie, it's Karen Barber that I'm scared of on Dancing On Ice. She looks so angry most of time. Meanwhile I've had nearly as many texts and e-mails about Holly as I have about Jeremy Beadle. Stop it. It's not big and it's not clever.

'Tis funny though.

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