Ashes To Ashes: I’m Happy, Hope You’re Happy Too

THE first screening of Ashes To Ashes tonight and a nervous moment for Life On Mars fans.
Could the spin-off series possibly live up to what has gone before?
Twenty minutes in and I still wasn’t sure.
But as DI Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) walked into Luigi’s Wine Bar – the new Railway Arms – it suddenly all fell into place.
And by the end of the first episode there was a broad smile on my face, a warm glow in my heart and a sudden urge to order a case of Asti Spumante.
Ashes To Ashes is terrific.
Arriving on BBC1 next month, the eight-part series sees DCI Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) transferred from Manchester to London.
The time shift from 1973 to 1981 opens up a whole new world, with old school cop Gene frustrated in an era of policing where he’s not seen as part of the future.
As fans will know, Alex was Sam Tyler’s (John Simm) psychologist in 2007 and finds herself back in 1981 after being shot in the head.
Having previously documented Sam’s journey to 1973, she thinks she knows exactly who Gene, Ray and Chris are – figments of her imagination.

But not everything is as she expects in a series with several twists and surprises.
Keeley dazzles as Alex, demonstrating just why she was given one of the most prized TV roles of the last year.
Phil is also on top form in the return of The Guv.

The music soundtrack – including Vienna by Ultravox and No More Heroes by The Stranglers – will have many searching through their record collection.
And any TV drama that drops in a mention of Coronation Street’s Betty Turpin is fine by me.
The launch was in a cinema close to Piccadilly Circus in London – the pic (right) is of the illuminations there late tonight.
Or last night if you want to be pedantic, this now being typed in the early hours of the morning.
It was also the first time the cast had seen the “fine cut” finished version, complete with music and completed film grading.
Relaxing with a glass of wine, Phil said: “It’s just got an incredibly different feel about it. It’s got its own identity.
“What I learned tonight is that it’s quite tongue in cheek, in many respects, which I really think is fabulous.”
Not all Life On Mars devotees will love Ashes To Ashes.
Some die-hard Sam fans may find his absence just too much to bear.
But from where I was sitting, Kudos and the BBC appear to have yet another hit on their hands with a series which may have an even wider appeal.
I also chatted again to Marshall Lancaster (DC Chris Skelton) and Montserrat Lombard (WPC Shaz Granger).

Co-creator and writer Ashley Pharoah was there, along with Keeley’s husband Matthew Macfadyen, who guest stars in episode seven.
Missing was Dean Andrews (DS Ray Carling). He was on a holiday booked before the date of tonight’s screening was fixed.
Also absent was co-creator and writer Matthew Graham, busy on a very exciting new TV project.
Aside from the cast, I was very pleased to meet both Yayster and Wibble from The Railway Arms – an essential destination for fans of both Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes.
The embargo on interviews means there’s still a little while to wait before I can run the first major feature on Ashes To Ashes.
But for those who want to know, there are a few spoilers below, including news of Sam.
The last episode of Life On Mars featured Sam committing suicide in 2007 by jumping from the roof of his Manchester police HQ.
His leap also took him back to join Gene, Annie, Chris and Ray in 1973.
In the first episode of Ashes To Ashes, Ray explains to Alex how Sam had spent a further seven years with the team.
He tells her that Sam then died during a jewellery robbery the year before – 1980.
Sam’s car ended up in the river, but his body was never found.
Which, of course, gives some hope to those fans who believe Sam may return one day.
Ray also gives Alex some advice, which could be one of the most telling quotes of the opening episode.
He says she should stick with Gene Hunt. “Being with the guv is the right place to be.”
Gene is now divorced – the unseen Mrs Hunt finally had enough and left him.
And Alex proves more than a match for the former Sheriff of Manchester.
We’re off on a brand new journey, so fire up the Quattro and enjoy the ride.
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The Railway Arms
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