Hands up who saw Packed To The Rafters after reading my blog last week? No one? All of you? A few weeks ago, we delved into the topic of the ratio of American shows to shows produced internationally, inclusive of my homeland Australia, and we discussed about what makes a great show, and whether country of origin plays a factor. As I mentioned before, the decision is up the it’s up to the consumer and the avid TV watcher to know if their show is good, regardless of where it was filmed and set; and it’s my job as a reviewer and an informer of shows just to state the facts, give my opinion, hopefully as unbiased as can be, and let you all make up your minds.
This week we are exploring another favourite show of mine that is not American, and that is the British TV show Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes. Sure we talked about that show already in light of the theme of death and life after death a while back, however I would like to look at the show impartially, not trying to force my view on anyone- simply just state the facts, and let you all watch a show that is simply acted brilliantly.
The Show/s: Life On Mars, Ashes To Ashes
Channel: BBC One
Created By: Matthew Graham, Ashley Pharoah
Starring: John Simm, Keeley Hawes, Philip Glenister, Dean Andrews, Liz White, Marshall Lancaster, Montserrat Lombard, Daniel Mays
Summary: The protagonist, Detective Chief Inspector Sam Tyler, is shot during a drug bust, and subsequently is sent back to the 1970’s, seemingly through time, when he befriends other cops Chris Skelton and Ray Carling, falls in love with Annie Cartwright, and locks horns and battles with his boss Gene Hunt. All the while, he helps solves crimes for the local police station in Manchester, while trying to find a way back home, and not arousing suspicion to his new colleagues. Throughout the series, Sam confides in Annie, and tells her everything, and together, they try to figure out the truth and what has happened. The end of the series creates more questions, and Sam makes a decision about his life that redefines everything he knows.
In Ashes to Ashes, Detective Inspector Alex Drake, Sam’s psychologist, is shot during a similar raid to the one that changed Sam’s life, and she is thrown back to the 1980’s, again working with Gene, Chris, and Ray, as well as a new detective called Shaz. She is shocked to find herself in the place that Sam described. Throughout Ashes to Ashes, Alex strives to travel home to be with her daughter Molly even though it seems like she can’t find a way back, and in the latter parts of the series, every clue and mystery culminate in a massive twist that shocks us all.
Number of Seasons: 5 collective (2 for Life On Mars, 3 for Ashes To Ashes)
Aired from: 2006-2010
So what is it about this show that draws me in? Well I saw the American version of Life On Mars first, was totally underwhelmed by the ending (I’m gonna spoil it, as I reckon no one should watch that series which is a total let down- they actually were on Mars and the show was an entire virtual reality trip), and then I saw Ashes to Ashes, then went back to watch the UK version of Life On Mars. Because of this, I saw the show in a different way- I think the front part of the U.S. version was alright, assuming you’ve never seen the British version before. But once you’ve seen quality, how can you watch an inferior remake?
What I was reminded through both shows was that life is fleeting and we may never know how much time we have left on this earth and with the people that we love. While at times we think that Sam and Alex are dead or mad, and we also ponder as to whether they did travel back in time, the series does make us question our beliefs in the afterlife, and in such a time of uncertainty and crises in the Middle East, a look inwards is a very good thing. While it’s true that many people today think about our life after death is not important to dwell upon now, the fact that no one knows the future should spur us into action as we think really hard about the important things in life.
As far as acting is concerned, to me Philip carries the show and makes both series the best that British TV has to offer. Diving deeper into the meaty issues, this critically acclaimed and award winning show has won the hearts of many, and it is the mystery driven plotline together with the spirituality that makes me excited as I talk about this series that is so complex and has many layers. With the rest of the actors ably and professionally supporting Philip and being immerse in their roles, this series is a must watch for those who want to know what acting looks like! IT’s also great to see the 80’s and 70’s culture and scenery, and hear how people talked back then.
As critics have been praising the show for the acting and the storylines; this is definitely a show that I think you should all check out if you have the chance (moreso than Packed to the Rafters). It’s my favourite British drama right now, even if it has been off the air for 4 years now (but Sherlock could top that!), and I am certain that all of the 40 episodes can be streamed online by those not living in England. A must for those wanting to know a bit more about life in Britain in the 70’s and 80’s, and the difference in the corruption of police then and now- this show is sure to stand the test of time and be as popular even ten years later!
Are these shows just as good as American TV shows? Yes it is. In the first instalment of this series, I mentioned that some of these ‘international’ shows are better in quality to American shows- but you can make your own decision. The trailer of the shows can be viewed here and here– what do you think of it?
Next week…we will delve into another Aussie show! Just thought I would let you know.