LIFE On Mars star Marshall Lancaster may surprise a few fans in the second series of the classic TV show.
The Macclesfield actor, who plays clumsy Detective Constable Chris Skelton, will be back on screen with Sam, Gene and co in the New Year.
My interviews with the cast are embargoed until nearer transmission, so I’m unable to reveal what’s in store for Chris and the rest of the team.
But there is some news for viewers, including me, who simply can’t wait for the new – and final – BBC1 series to start.
Firstly, Marshall is about to pop up in Coronation Street as Slug, a character linked to bad girl Becky, played by Katherine Kelly.
He’ll be on screen next week as Life On Mars: The Official Guide To Series One (pictured) goes on sale at a book shop or online retailer near you.
It’s an absolute must for fans of the Manchester and Stockport filmed drama, which gets my vote for the best TV show of 2006.
THEY filmed the final scenes 11 days ago. Life On Mars as we know it is no more.
When I spoke to cast members on set in August, it was clear that the new second series would be the last.
The only question was whether it would be followed by a final two-part special.
Now it’s been confirmed that the eight episodes in the new BBC1 series – due on screen early in the New Year – will be the end of the story.
The news came just hours before Life On Mars was nominated for an International Emmy.
It’s up for Best Drama in the awards, which take place in New York on November 20.
THE bottles of Old Spice and Hai Karate aftershave are still in Gene’s office and a jar of pickled eggs sits behind the bar of The Railway Arms.
Earlier this week I spent a day on set in Manchester during filming for the second series of BBC1’s Life on Mars – the best drama on TV last year by some distance. And that includes Bleak House.
The main interviews with cast and crew have to be held back until nearer transmission. But from what I saw and heard, fans of the show won’t be disappointed when it returns early next year. Even the most avid student of Life on Mars should be satisfied.
It’s been hot in the city for the TV team this summer. The heatwave has caused problems for Philip Glenister, who plays Det Chief Insp Gene Hunt in a big camel coat. “It’s been pretty nightmarish,” he told me.
But there’s another reason why the Gene Genie has been getting hot under the collar while making the second series of the hit drama set in 1973.
ASHES To Ashes is set to get slightly darker in series two, on the road to unveiling greater mysteries.
That was one of the revelations at last night’s BBC Writersroom talk by Ashley Pharoah and Matthew Graham.
They are the Emmy Award-winning creators and writers of Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes, among many other things.
Ashley and Matthew told a packed audience of some 140 people about their sheer excitement for series two, following the first storyline meeting last Friday.
They also explained how they lost a few of the battles about the tone of Ashes series one.
And how they plan to pull the rug from under viewers in the second, and possible third, series.
The event was held at the Soho Theatre in London.
I took these post-talk photos of Ashley and Matthew in the back bar – just a short tube ride away from Luigi’s – sadly with no mural behind them.
They also shunned beer for that white wine stuff, so beloved of Italian trattorias.
YOU have to take most TV awards ceremonies with a large pinch of salt.
The decision to give an award to one person, and not another, can often be baffling.
Take, for example, the case of Life On Mars’ star John Simm.
So far he has been shamefully neglected when it comes to awards.
But sometimes the people who vote for these things get it right.
Today it was the turn of the Television and Radio Industries Club (TRIC) at a glitzy event in London.
Coronation Street’s Kym Ryder was named Soap Personality of the Year.
Life On Mars was voted TV Crime Programme of the Year.
And the equally marvellous Cranford took away the prize for TV Drama Programme of the Year.
THERE’S a real treat this week for Gene Hunt fans.
It involves The Guv, a gun and a plate glass window.
Someone, somewhere, just has to turn it into a poster.
It’s an iconic moment in another great episode of Ashes To Ashes.
Episode six, written by Mick Ford, might just top everything we’ve seen before.
After a scintillating start, it’s a spine-tingling, scary and emotional ride to the end titles.
Then, just as the hairs on the back of your neck are pleading for rest, there’s a real shock in the trailer for episode seven.
Fans of the sexual chemistry between Gene and Alex should order in catering packs of pink wafers.
Philip Glenister is at his imperious best as DCI Hunt roars off to solve a Post Office blag.
THE postman knocked once today with something rather special.
It’s just three minutes and 27 seconds long, but packed full of joy.
Gene Hunt, played by Philip Glenister, rides again in the first promo DVD for BBC1’s Ashes To Ashes.
Screen grabs are strictly forbidden.
But I can give you a flavour of what we’ll all see in a matter of months.
Mild spoilers ahead for those who want to avoid:
Emerging from his 1981 office, Gene says, as we knew he would: “Right, let’s fire up the Quattro.”
Happily, there’s no sign that the passage of time has mellowed DCI Hunt.
He tells one bad lad: “Anything you say will be taken down, ripped up and shoved down your scrawny little throat till you choke to death.
“Gene Hunt: Chapter one, verse two.”
THE stars gather tomorrow for the Bafta TV awards – and I’ll be there to report for both the MEN and this blog.
Red carpet arrivals at the London Palladium begin at 5pm, with the doors due to close around 6pm.
The awards, hosted by Graham Norton, start at 6.30pm and end at 8.30pm.
They will be screened “as live” on BBC1 between 8pm and 10pm.
I’ve already given my views on who I’d like to see win in an MEN TV feature here.
The Bafta juries faced several tough calls this year in what is, in any event, a highly subjective process.
How, for example in the Actor category, do you judge Jim Broadbent’s performance in Longford against John Simm as Sam Tyler in Life On Mars, Michael Sheen as Kenneth Williams in Fantabulosa! or Andy Serkis as Ian Brady, also in Longford?
IS television run by “a lot of fools”?
That’s the view of Life On Mars star Philip Glenister, who thinks television is “screwed up”.
In an interview with today’s Radio Times he also described reality shows as “sadistic” and said EastEnders was “up its own ****”.
You could be forgiven for thinking that Glenister had sent his no-nonsense Manchester cop DCI Gene Hunt along for the chat.
But he has always held strong views about the industry he works in and one he has known since an early age.
His father John was a cameraman turned TV director and elder brother Robert – star of Hustle – went into acting before him.
I’ve interviewed Phil several times and he’s always good company, with a sharp sense of humour.
And he’s not afraid to speak his mind.
SO much to report about the final series of Life On Mars.
Interviews and background material, all held for several months until the Manchester drama returns to the screen.
Now there’s just 14 days to go before Sam (John Simm), Gene (Philip Glenister) and the rest of the A-Division team are back on BBC1.
The first feature on the second series is in today’s MEN – click here for the online version.
There’s more from that interview with John to come, along with others, including Phil, Liz White (Annie) and Marshall Lancaster (Chris).