Friday, April 13, 2007

Left wanting more

Hi all,

In a brief hiatus from twanging geetars and noodling about on the ol’ joanna in search of something less clichéd than I usually produce...

I’ve been swimming about in Life On Mars from Kudos. The debonair and erudite Dog of Goodness has a quote from Caitlin Moran about the finale of series two, where she’d claimed that there was both an ending for stupid people and one for clever people. I’m obviously nowhere near as clever as I’d like to have you all believe, as I’d only spotted the one for stupid people. There are spoilers ahead, for those of you who haven’t yet seen the finale...

I’d recorded the Life On Mars episode as it loses out in my book to CSI, which was on at the same time. Funnily enough, before seeing the LoM finale yesterday, I felt let down by the CSI episode (the one with Ned Beatty as a serial-killing dentist and Grissom off holidaying somewhere with less of a daily body-count...) as it seemed just a little too pat. Things fell into place in a manner that doesn’t usually happen in a CSI episode, even the ones where they’re gusting on at length about their innermost feelings and such. It was the sort of episode where, as the credits start to roll, you look at each other with a faintly bemused air of betrayal, a raised eyebrow and an ‘eh?’. Not one where you really go all Charlie Brooker, spitting blood at the screen and wanting to have the writers hung, drawn and chucked in a blender, but just leaving you with a vague sense of disappointment and dissatisfaction. And gloom.

It’s rather like going back to your favourite curry house, which you haven’t been to for months, anticipating a repeat of your last meal there (which was amazing) and finding out that, though the menu is the same, the kitchen staff have changed. The long-awaited meal arrives and, though it’s good, it just doesn’t quite do it for you. In the non-biblical sense, of course. Hem-hem...

Back to Life On Mars. A series storyline that dodged about nicely, never quite letting you know how it might resolve. A solid ensemble cast that, once I’d got over the sometimes shoddy representation of the 1970s (as it’s supposed to be in his head, it could indeed be as clichéd as it came across, with all the anachronisms flying about too), offered many touching moments of emotional depth that the writers could easily have abandoned in their rush to be all, you know, ’70s, maaan. The central character of Sam Tyler, a modern police officer somehow thrown back from the present day to the Manchester of 1973 is your fairly typical ‘fish out of water’, but with many worthy and well-developed traits as well as the obvious quest to find out how to get back to the present day.

Many pundits seemed to be harping on about the Big Question™ being whether 1973 was all in Sam’s head as he was in a coma in 2006, or whether he’d dreamed the future (startlingly accurately, as it happens, and not at all like the visions of the future we were sold in the ’70s) and was in fact from 1973 after all.

Umm, unless I missed a meeting, he was definitely from the 2006/7 era and the Big Question™ was whether he was imagining it all, or had actually somehow gone back in time. Theories abounded here at the Tower. Many of them related to Sam’s eventual return to the present day and what he might do when he did (that aspect of the storyline seeming to be a given). Would he search the records of the police force, and discover that the characters he dreamt up actually existed? Would he then try to track them down? Wouldn’t there be more in terms of drama and rug-pulling from beneath the audience in having him actually travel in time? There wouldn’t necessarily need to be an explanation of how (in fact, that might well prove ruinous), just close the episode with some lovely ‘oh wow’ sort of stuff.

So, even though Sam has arrived back in the present day and many of the odd names and references have now been explained - Hyde 2612 being his hospital room number, etc, etc. - having him actually discover an old photo with him and the team in it, or that Gene Hunt existed, or even something as murky as all the records from that era having been lost in a fire, but someone dimly remembering something that places him back then, would surely have been a more satisfactory (though wonderfully frustrating!) conclusion to the series.

I don’t know if I wasn’t paying enough attention (unlikely), but having the 1970s being purely a fiction created during the coma, the present day as dry and stultifying, and Sam’s eventual decision to kill himself to ‘return to the dream’ seemed like one of those ideas you have right at the start of the session, long before you come up with something a little less simplistic. Not that the episode was in any way simple. It nipped around like a demented thing, just about managing to hold on to the plot, before seemingly fizzling out and leaving the viewer with the same vague feeling of having been ever-so-slightly cheated.

Pity. I started to get quite into it by the end.


At 8:22 am, Blogger Brian Sibley said...

Thanks for that run-down, I loved the first series of LOM, but decided that I'd only get frustrated or be terribly disappointed if I followed it through to the end --- I gave up on LOST for similar reasons, plus a cynical belief that, in that instance, nobody really knows what the hell it's all about and won't do, till the ratings slip!

PS: By the way, talking of plot-lines (notice unsophisticated link here), I hope you're going to enter my book competition!

At 3:38 am, Blogger Emily Blake said...

I just couldn't get into Life On Mars. I don't know why.

But today I started loving Robin Hood.

I gotta say the shows on the BBC are excellent these days. I think I'll post on that soon.

At 11:38 am, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

Oh no! Not Robin Hood!!

It's been panned over here as pure pantomime, but has still managed to get recommissioned. Argh...

I think a lot of the reason why LoM might not work for you, Mademoiselle Blake, is that so much of it is idiomatically rooted in the UK. I believe that they're putting together a reworking of it in the US. Maybe that would work better for you? A lot of it is based on a cop show from the seventies called The Sweeney, which was quite revolutionary for its time in being hard-hitting, gritty and sometimes very violent. The writers themselves admitted that this was a way for them to basically write Sweeney episodes, as they were all fans of the original show.

Plus, as you're so terribly young (hehe) and didn't live through the seventies (like some of us...), maybe some of the references relied too much on experience rather than working for a fresh audience.

Just a bunch of my opinions, obviously... ;-)

Brian, I will get round to the competition, I really will!

At 10:35 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

The American version with probably have them driving down alleys and crashing through stacks of cardboard boxes while they suck on lollipops.


At 5:55 am, Blogger Emily Blake said...

Perhaps. I grew up in the eightees.

And as for Robin Hood. I know, it's campy and requires some major suspension of disbelief, but it's also kind of fun. I like silly fun. Especially when it's played by the Brits.

And that Irish dude who's supposed to be English is mighty charming.

I'm just super excited that Hustle is back this week. Yay, Hustle. And MI5 (Spooks). Oooh, and Hex. And occasionally, when I want to shut my brain down entirely, Footballers Wives.

At 8:42 am, Blogger Brian Sibley said...

I now hear that LOM is coming back with a NEW character froma different decade...

So it wasn't really over after all! I now confidently await the appearance of the giant polar bears.

At 10:41 am, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

And the space-monkeys! ;-)


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