Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Woman's in the wrong?

The Guardian reported yesterday that Ashes to Ashes had lost a million viewers for its second episode, and the biggest debate seems to be over the character of DI Alex Drake. Keeley Hawes, as Helen Rumbelow puts it in the Times, the new series has divided viewers as sharply as the miners' strike or the disbanding of Wham! did in the real life 1980s.  
The problem was that in Life on Mars, Sam Tyler was portrayed as a nice bloke with a lovely mum who found himself back in time. His 'niceness' made us like Gene Hunt's complete unpolitical correctness more. The writers with Ashes to Ashes have attempted something more tricky; made Drake a knowing, irritating heroine who has defects as a mother (well I think it's pretty bad form to take your daughter along to a hostage situation) and who - aha - had a dysfunctional relationship with a mother who looks the spit of Edwina Currie (surely the problems Alex faces are all apparent now).
Alex "Hello constructs" Drake I can put up with; what is interesting is that it affects the rest of the cast. The sexism that was apparent in LoM has a nastier side in A2A because Tyler as New Man isn't there to counterpoint it; the writers no doubt justify the snooker ball scene, Rupert Graves shagging on the sofa and stamping Alex "Property of the Met" on the backside as part of Alex's id (in fact they made her explicitly say it) but there is a nastier tone. Ray Carling was always the dodgiest of the three but he has turned into Finbarr Saunders with a perm; Chris Skelton has gone from being sweetly naive about women to a repulsive lech. And Gene Hunt - well - he looks rather lost.
I am hoping this will turn out to be a witty and perceptive take on how women have moved forward since the decade that first saw a woman in power; that the darker tone reflects a deeper deconstruction of the materialist girl decade. But at the moment there aren't as many laughs. And they're still avoiding tackling racism.
Talking of materialist girls however, I am sorely sorely tempted however to buy a T-shirt that says "A woman's place is in the White House". I don't even support Hillary but it made me laugh a lot. The problem is with Lent rolling on til March, and Obama's victories rolling on, if I wait until Easter Sunday it may be far too late.....


Jack Yan said...

Glenda, a very perceptive review. My issue with the episode is that the mystery element was more lacking than in the first: after all, thanks to Life on Mars, we already know part of the “why”.
   While Alex Drake is probably neither mad, in a coma or back in time, I had hoped there would be something to keep the mystery-seekers among us engaged. The first episode gave us a few clues, such as the demise of Sam Tyler (which may explain a mellower Gene Hunt), but the second did not. It treated the whole proceeding as routine when there are so many Life on Mars refugees accustomed to the high standards of that series’ last few episodes.
   You are right: we have an irritating heroine with her own problems, but we also have DCI Hunt a pale shadow of his former self.
   The 1970s were ripe for source material on which to base Life on Mars’ grittiness; the glitzier 1980s might just explain why the Gene Genie is retreating to his lamp.

Glenda Cooper said...

that's true; the references to Sam Tyler's seven years were lacking; and little about Gene's intervening years too; I am guessing the scriptwriters would argue that the introduction of Alex's mother is why they pulled back on the other mystery....and that they may return to it...surely....
However there was a treat: seeing John Humphrys do the 9 o'clock news and with an exquisite RP accent; beautiful