Ashes To Ashes, BBC1

by | Feb 7, 2008 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

As egregious as the Flock of Seagulls singer’s haircut, as explicitly feeble as Tarzan, The Ape Man, as arrogant in its own beauty as Ultravox’s Vienna, as wrongly heralded as the engagement of Charles & Di, as self-consciously jaunty as Depeche Mode’s I Just Can’t Get Enough and as unwelcome as Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Cats, or indeed anything associated with the grey toad of music hall.

What was good about it?

• Sean Harris as Arthur Layton who shot Alex in the present day as if he knew it would send her into the past, to a time when he was a menacing crime lord and the only character who didn’t look as if he came free with a box of Ready Brek.

• Tubeway Army’s Are Friends Electric? and David Bowie’s Ashes To Ashes.

What was bad about it?

• From the first few scenes it was evident something was severely wrong with Ashes To Ashes. The way in which Molly broke through a limp police cordon to confront Arthur Layton as he pointed a gun at her mother was more of a fantasy sequence than the bit where she chatted amiably with Rainbow’s George and Zippy; the sort of thing that only occurs in overwrought dramas to embellish them with angular artifice.

• And then when you hear a gunshot, it’s assumed that Arthur has been felled by a police marksman and Molly runs into her mother’s arms. But Arthur then turns up in the back of Alex’s car. Surely she would have been notified, after he demanded her specifically when he took a hostage, or at least have been on her guard.

• The way in which Alex remained dressed in her disguise(?) as a prostitute for at least a couple of days as though she were one of Doctor Who’s female companions. And even more perplexing is why she didn’t wash off that garish lipstick she had applied.

• The portrayal of Gene Hunt as some kind of messiah; all he was missing was the crown of thorns. The comical nature of his grand entrances actually diminished their impact because it atrophied much of the tension his arrival was set to uncork. As Alex struggled with a slick drug dealer, the incidental music perked up and Hunt arrived in his Audi Quattro Dirty Harry-esque revolver in hand. But the worst instance was after Shaz was taken hostage, and nobody knew what to do until all eyes turned to focus on Hunt’s door. You were half-expecting Legs & Co to prance into shot to the tune of Jesus Christ Superstar. And then when Hunt and his cronies roar to the rescue in a powerboat along a Thames tributary.

• And Gene’s dialogue seems to be a Greatest Hits package, that like most Greatest Hits albums reveals now narrow the canon of work actually was as everything seems to repeat itself ten minutes in. We had “She’s the classiest pro[stitute] I’ve seen all week”; Alex: “You’re taller than I imagined” Gene: “I’m bigger in every department”.

• Falling with a dull thud between the two stools of parody and thriller with the odd comic twist. Gene Hunt is a squirming grotesque; his sidekicks are dull ciphers, ZX81 coppers; while Alex seems to adopt a new persona every scene lurching fitfully between a drunkard, a lunatic and an annoying, aloof pedant spouting nonsensical psychobabble every chance she gets. While the A-Team references make you cringe and pull your fingers back into your armpits; there was even the hail of bullets without injuring a soul, while Hunt similarly sprayed Arthur leaving him only with a grazed cheek.

• And it’s this psychobabble that is a huge impediment to the relationship between herself and Hunt. She is supposedly the enlightened one with the slick modern police profiling skills who educates the Neanderthal Hunt in the subtleties of sleuthing, yet ends up reciting such folix dialogue that you only ever seen written down in a bloated thesis that’s being used as improvised firewood.

• The consequence is that the two leads rarely communicate, and instead shout their traits at one another with no sense of chemistry. This of course, will change in future episodes, but it’s hardly any good if you’ve castrated yourself of most of your audience.

• Slow motion sequences that put the realism on the cheese grater to oblivion.

• Duran Duran’s Last Chance On The Stairway, a song that evokes 80s nightmares for us in the same way as partially submerged car in a river haunts Teddy Kennedy.

• Luigi, the Italian restaurateur who is probably only Italian so Chris could drunkenly sing Shaddap You Face to him

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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