So it turns out that I’m not having as much fun with the new series of ‘Life on Mars’ as I did, say, at this time last year. The problem is easily identifiable; Gene Hunt is no longer a sympathetic character; he is, in fact, now a cunt (a word that will soon become acceptable profanity because the BBC, the last bastion of hope for the English language, are easing up the restrictions (Oh, sorry, I should have noted that this blog entry should only be read after the watershed)).
This is a problem for two related reasons.
The first is that the show, whilst nominally about Sam Tyler working out whether he’s dead, in a coma or back in time, is actually about the relationship between the good cops of today and the coppers of the seventies who will do anything to put the crim in chokey. Sam Tyler is one side of that debate and Gene Hunt is the other. In the first series Gene is cocky, arrogant and always trying to do the right thing; it’s just that he seems to think that to get the job done you have to be a bit of a criminal yourself. In the second (and final) series he’s still cocky and arrogant, but now he’s angry and malicious. Gene Hunt now a caricature of everything we now think despicable of seventies policing.
This is a problem now because Sam, who often seems a little cocky and oversure of himself, is increasingly right to think that old style coppering had no redeeming features to it. It’s a future problem because Gene Hunt is getting his own series.
Yes, the Gene Genie is returning in ‘Ashes to Ashes.’ It’s set, so the rumours go, in 1980 and presumably it will be about Gene Hunt having to cope with policing in the ‘new age’ (for a good primer of British Police Dramas I recommend ‘The Comic Strip Presents… Detectives on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown’). Now the Gene Hunt of series one would be perfect for that show, but the Gene Hunt of series two… Not so much.
Which is a pity. Philip Glenister’s protrayal of DCI Gene Hunt is the best thing about ‘Life on Mars’ and, hopefully, making his character the fish out of water in the new series will breath life and new humanity back into the part. Still, I’m not as optimistic as I was several months ago, and I don’t like it when my TV lets me down.
If you can’t trust the box who can you trust?