The 'Guardian's' review is, well, typically 'Guardian':
So that's it then, Ashes to Ashes to ashes. The end of Gene Hunt, the bullying, racist, misogynist, everything else-ist DCI the nation strangely fell in love with...Ahh, bless. You can almost hear the baffled incomprehension that must have been in his mind when he typed that copy, can't you?
Rather like the now-notorious quote (attributed to Pauline Kael) that a liberal doyenne "couldn't believe Nixon had won", since no one she knew had voted for him, the Guardian just doesn't understand how anyone other than policemen (corrupt, racist, misogynistic policemen at that, ones not yet drummed out of the force by the professional standards people) could appreciate that show.
And certainly, it's proved popular with the police, if blogs are anything to go by. Even Inspector Gadget couldn't resist changing his header in tribute on Friday:
Yet it also proved hugely popular with the public too. And that makes nice, politically-correct, well brought up Guardian reviewers, secure in their insular bubble, head's explode...
Mind you, the reviewer is in good company, because even the creators are puzzled by that:
Some viewers may have been too busy enjoying Hunt's politically incorrect ways to notice. The gruff Gary Cooper fan surprised his creators by sparking the passion of some female viewers – there's even an online group called Hunt's Housewives – the admiration of some men, and leaving others obsessed with Gene and Alex's (or Galex's) relationship. "I'm still amazed that girls find it romantic, this big hulking bloke in a dated suit, that there could be anything even closely resembling a sex symbol," Graham says. "I find that baffling. It's great but I just don't understand it."Oh, dear. Well, sometimes the best discoveries are the most unexpected. 'Fawlty Towers' wasn't expected to be a hit either, being savaged by the critics on release, only to see the character of Basil Fawlty - manic, cowardly, incompetent - voted second favourite TV character in a Channel Four programme.
It isn't just the maddeningly elusive appeal of the main character - for as we all know now, Hunt IS the main character, not Sam Tyler or Alex Drake - but the baffling (to the reviewer) ending, and the 'did they or didn't they?' question:
Got it? No, I'm not sure I have either. Did the people behind A2A know all this when they started, or are they just tying together all the loose ends together now, in a big old knot?My guess is that they planned something like this, on reflection, if not the exact format of the ending. And I plan to go back and watch 'Life on Mars' all over again to see if there's any foreshadowing!
The bitterness at the popularity of the show with the public, and the obvious yearning for the 'old' police force seeps through in every line of the Guardian's review:
Heaven is the pub, the old one from Life on Mars, the Railway Arms, where CID went for a bit of R&R after beating the crap out of people all day.Heh!
As shows go, this one - two?- has been one of the key shows of the Noughties (I loathe that term, but what else do you call them?). And the BBC almost passed up the chance to screen it. What a mistake that would have been...
So what is the appeal? Nostalgia? The retro soundtrack? A longing for the world to be put to rights, for a police force to concentrate on real villains, instead of politically correct trivialities? A longing for real heroes, uncomplicated by modern drama's need for 'conflict' and 'ambiguity'?
Probably all of the above. At least at first.
But then, like all great shows written by great teams, it took on a life all of its own beyond the soundtrack and the snappy one-liners, and became something that could support its internal mythology to produce something as splendid as the final episode, which ends - fittingly -with the Hunt character moodily contemplating his new 'decade' and new ride in his office, while outside another confused soul arrives, looking for his iPhone and wondering where the hell he's ended up...
Not a prospect that comforts our poor reviewer:
Hold up though, who's this at the end? A new arrival in Gene Hunt's purgatory? Does that keep the door open, just a crack, for maybe more to come? Oh Lordy no, surely not, they said this really was the end.I don't think so, though. The ending is just too, too perfect. I think - I hope, despite wanting more - that the creators will resist the temptation to do one more series.
And if they don't win a BAFTA, there'll be no justice. But then, as the public longing for the world of 'Life on Mars' and 'Ashes to Ashes' shows us, there isn't any justice any more, is there..?