IT looked like yet another quiet evening in with a tin of ‘oops and a Life On Mars DVD.
Then the postman delivered an invite to a night out with Gene Hunt.
“There’s no dress code,” the DCI explained on mug-stained North West District Police headed paper, “but try and make an effort, eh?
“The place will be packed with birds, so unless you’re a Catholic priest you might want to try and impress them.”
The occasion was tonight’s London cast and crew premiere of Life On Mars – The Finale.
(Don’t worry about having your enjoyment of next week’s final episode ruined. This blog remains spoiler free and you’ll find no clues below)
Even though I’ve already watched episode eight far too many times to be healthy (I recommend catering packs of ‘oops), you simply don’t turn down a man like DCI Hunt.
“You’ll finally get to find out what’s been going on in DI Tyler’s head,” Gene’s typed A4 letter went on.
“Was he back in time, in a coma or stark raving bonkers?”
That last bit was ringed in ink by Sam Tyler, with the added handwritten comment: “Typically offensive remark.”
“You’ll get to know before anyone else,” continued Gene. “And I finally get some peace from all this whingeing.”
The ever tactful Mr Hunt even had some helpful advice for the fairer sex: “Ladies, if I can’t persuade the wife not to come, I doubt whether I will be attending, so don’t get your hopes up.
“But just in case I do make an appearance, you might like to wear something red and low cut? (And for God’s sake shave your legs, all that feminism malarkey won’t wash with me).”
Sam had ringed the words “wear something red and low cut”, adding the written comment: “Sexual harrassment.”
Gene concluded his invite: “Cheese and wine will be provided, so there’s no need to bring a bottle.
“Though if you do decide to smuggle in a couple of Blue Nuns or Mateus Rose, I’m sure the lads from the station will turn a blind eye on this occasion.”
Those last five words were labelled “on the take!?” by DI Tyler, who wrote at the bottom: “Hope you can make it. I promise I’ll keep him on a lead.”
Signing off: “Right that’s about it,” the green-shirted Sheriff of Manchester also enclosed a temporary North West District police warrant card to facilitate entry to the lock-in.
Presumably, most of the main cast and series two guest stars came down by coach direct from The Railway Arms for the do at BAFTA in Piccadilly.
John Simm (Sam), in a striped suit jacket and sporting a trimmed beard, signed copies of the “Back In The Nick Of Time” poster, while sipping red wine.
Philip Glenister (Gene) wandered around in a black overcoat, at one stage embracing Dean Andrews, who plays Ray Carling.
Sadly, Liz White (Annie) missed the screening as she was on stage in Dying For It at the Almeida Theatre in Islington.
And Marshall Lancaster (Chris) was also absent. He was rehearsing for his role in Up ‘n’ Under, which opens at the Buxton Opera House later today (blimey, is that the time?).
Other cast members and guest stars who did make it included Tony Marshall (Nelson), Ralph Brown (Frank Morgan), Kevin McNally (Harry Woolf), Kieran O’Brien (Davie Mackay), Ian Puleston-Davies (Toolbox) and Ray Emmett Brown (Glenn Fletcher).
Also lurking near the bar was the Camberwick Green model of Sam Tyler, as seen in episode five, which appeared to have escaped the recycling bin.
BBC drama boss Jane Tranter spoke in the cinema before the screening and praised the Life On Mars writers.
“They’ve managed to come up with a piece of pure TV history,” she said.
“They’ve created characters that have become part of our language and part of our popular culture.”
And Jane concluded: “If you are feeling depressed that it is the last ever Life On Mars – three words…Ashes To Ashes.”
Executive producer Claire Parker told the cast and crew: “It’s probably the last time that everyone involved in Life On Mars is going to be gathered in one room at the same time.
“So I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling it’s actually quite an emotional moment.
“Making this series has taken a lot of us on an incredible journey and a huge amount of care, love and energy has gone into Life On Mars over the last few years.
“Life On Mars seemed to cast a strange and wonderful spell over everyone involved in it, right from very early on its evolution.
“The show captured all of our imaginations in the same way, which was very exciting. And it’s been amazing to see that audiences seem to share that feeling.
“It’s been a thrill and a privilege to work on Life On Mars. And so all that’s left now is the finale.”
I’ve already given my view on the final episode in a previous blog. It was even more stunning on the big screen with an audience reaction.
I’m anxious not to hype up the finale, in case fans expect too much.
As I’ve said before, it’s impossible to please everyone.
Co-creator and writer Matthew Graham, sitting at the front of the packed 200-seat cinema, must also have been nervous about the reception it would get.
But the loud cheers and applause at the end of the BAFTA screening told their own story. It was quite an ovation.
My own opinion about episode eight hasn’t changed – it’s one of the best pieces of television I have ever seen.
There will be a full feature in next Wednesday’s MEN, the day after the final Life On Mars is broadcast on BBC1.
But, for now, here are a few words from the talented Mr Dean Andrews, who was beaming after tonight’s screening and full of praise for his co-stars.
He told me: “It’s so beautifully wrapped up in 16 super episodes, that will be there for posterity.
“It deserves to finish on the highest it can finish. And that’s what it’s done.”
The final episode of Life On Mars is on BBC1 (in colour) at 9pm next Tuesday.
Life On Mars: The End (spoiler free)
Life On Mars Blogs
Life On Mars MEN TV Stories
The Railway Arms