THE former Sheriff of Manchester looks the part in episode three of Ashes To Ashes.
Gene Hunt does his best Clint Eastwood impression as the 1981 team go undercover at a fancy dress party.
As I’ve said before, it doesn’t do to get ahead of ourselves.
Episode three isn’t on screen until a week on Thursday.
But I thought you might like to see these newly released photos from the episode – with Ray as James Bond and Chris as Superman / Clark Kent.
Before that, there’s a dynamite episode of Ashes this week, with Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) right on cue.
If anything, it’s better than last week’s opener with a story set around the Docklands development in east London.
There’s also that marvellous Blitz Club sequence, including Steve Strange singing Fade To Grey.
Plus more clues about what may be happening to Alex (Keeley Hawes).
That scary clown still appears to symbolise death, telling DI Drake: “We are waiting for you, Alex.”

THE day after the night before.
Seven million viewers watched the first episode of Ashes To Ashes, according to the first overnight figures.
And that doesn’t include those who recorded it to watch later.
As predicted, there are mixed reviews – some hate it, some can’t decide and some want to marry it.
It’s a good start in terms of the ratings, but only a start.
Personally, as already discussed, I loved the opening episode and watched it yet again (for the seventh time) as it went out last night.
Yes, the shootout scene was a bit daft and a little overblown.
And it didn’t seem right that Alex would go out on duty in those stockings, even if she only had half a wardrobe.
But most of it was glorious television – remembering that, yes, this is only a TV programme.
Philip Glenister is magnificent as Gene Hunt, both when riding to the rescue and in more melancholic alcoholic moments, knowing his time is running out.

WE know what’s happened to Sam Tyler.
Well, at least we think we know.
His fate – both in 2007 and in the years after 1973 – has already been discussed at length in this blog.
Whatever your view on Sam, played by John Simm, he is not in Ashes To Ashes.
And neither is DC Annie Cartwright, played by Liz White.
Annie and Sam’s relationship was one of the many delights of Life On Mars.
Some fans believe they would have gone on to marry and have little Sams and Annies of their own.
I caught up with Liz yesterday and asked her if production company Kudos had ever talked to her about Annie moving from Manchester to London.
“No. They didn’t have to, really,” she replied.
“I just knew that they couldn’t have spent all that time and energy – and spent people’s heartstrings – on Sam and Annie getting together, and then get them together, and then Annie turns up in Ashes To Ashes.

LESS than 24 hours to go now before Ashes To Ashes finally arrives on BBC1.
There’s an interview with Keeley Hawes in tomorrow’s MEN.
Update: The interview is here.
There’ll also be a special blog in the next day or two with Ashes producer Beth Willis.
Not to mention future stories from interviews with Dean Andrews (DS Ray Carling), Marshall Lancaster (DC Chris Skelton) and Montserrat Lombard (WPC Shaz Granger).
Plus an interview with costume designer Rosie Hackett.
Don’t forget to also check out all the previous material from Philip Glenister (DCI Gene Hunt), Keeley (DI Alex Drake) and co in recent blogs and features.
Fire up the links at the bottom of this blog for lots more.
I’m off to the launch of a new ITV drama series which co-stars Liz White – unforgettable as Annie in Life On Mars.

IT’S not a good idea to get ahead of ourselves.
But I thought I’d just say that episode two of Ashes To Ashes does not disappoint.
It confirms the TV team really has pulled this project off, despite the views of some non-believers.
That includes John Harris and Tony Parsons, who savaged Ashes To Ashes on BBC2’s Newsnight Review last night.
Any late night discussion which includes the word “postmodern” in the introduction needs to be treated with caution.
Cheshire-raised writer John was upset about the move from Manchester to London.
He also missed John Simm’s Sam Tyler and believed Ashes To Ashes was lacking in several departments.
“It makes reasonably entertaining TV – it’s very thin,” he said.
Author and writer Tony was even more vocal in his criticism.
“I thought it was unforgiveably feeble,” he commented.

WALKING around the set for Ashes To Ashes is a real treat.
With just seven days to go before the start of the new series, this is what’s on the menu at Gene Hunt’s new drinking den.
Luigi’s wine bar and Italian restaurant sent me spinning back to 1981.
With maroon tablecloths and Chianti bottles hanging from the ceiling, it looks and feels exactly like the sort of place I frequented 27 years ago.
There are even real Luigi’s menus, lovingly created by the art department.
The menu includes: Pizza: 90p / Spaghetti Bolognese: 95p / Beer: 55p / Coffee: 20p plus: “Please ask for Specials of the Day.”
Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) doesn’t have far to go once she’s “settled” in 1981.
Her flat is upstairs, directly above Luigi’s.
It contains an L-shaped lounge, with a sheepskin rug, glass coffee table and red brick wall.

“I don’t need your help,” insists DI Alex Drake.
“Everyone does,” replies her sozzled boss in sharp 1981 suit and tie.
The return of Gene Hunt is a cause for celebration across the land.
Or as The Guv puts it: “The A-Team are back in business.”
With a chess board ceiling in the new CID office, there’s a new puzzle to solve in Life On Mars’ sequel Ashes To Ashes.
Keeley Hawes plays Alex, the 2008 police psychologist who finds herself back in time with Gene, Ray, Chris and Duran Duran.
Shot in the head, the modern day detective concludes she’s trapped in her mind, one second from life…or death.
Alex believes that Gene (Philip Glenister) and his 1981 world are fantasies she’s assimilated from studying Sam Tyler’s (John Simm) memories of his trip to 1973 while he was in his “prolonged deep coma”.
Realising this must be a “subconscious construct induced by severe cranial trauma”, she stumbles: “No, no, no. This happened to him, it can’t happen to me.”

THE tabloid spin has started already, along with the first TV teaser trails.
Ashes To Ashes: Dust To Dust was just one headline this morning.
Gene Hunt is being killed off, it claimed, by the man who plays him, Philip Glenister.
A classic case of a story written to fit the headline.
What Phil actually said at Tuesday’s press launch was that he thought the new BBC1 drama – set in 1981 – would be the last time shift for Gene.
As things stand, he probably couldn’t see The Guv in any follow up drama set in the 1990s, or before the 1973 of Life On Mars.
But no mention whatsoever of killing Gene off.
Plans are already in place for a second series of Ashes To Ashes, which would begin filming later this year.
But although the cast are “optioned” for a second series, it has yet to be given the green light.
That depends – as is normal practice these days – on ratings for the first series, which is now confirmed as starting in the week beginning Monday Feb 4.

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.

JUST returned from interviews with Philip Glenister and Keeley Hawes ahead of the launch of Ashes To Ashes.
Due to the embargo on publication, and as with the set visit interviews last year, I still can’t reveal any of the content.
But I’m glad to say that unlike the rain pouring down outside the interview room, the outlook for A2A looks very bright indeed.
There shouldn’t be too long to wait now.
TV schedules can often be compared to shifting sands.