Life on Mars (2006-2007) / Ashes to Ashes (2008-2010)
One of the British TV phenomenon’s of the 2000’s, Life on Mars was about as high concept TV as you could find: Sam Tyler, a Manchester police officer, suffers a car accident in the present and wakes up in 1973, working for a predecessor unit with a group of eclectically of their time coppers led by the towering DCI Gene Hunt, played with scenery-chewing, alpha male brio by Philip Glenister. What was interesting about Matthew Graham, Ashley Pharaoh & Tony Jordan’s series was the ambiguity; even in the credits, John Simm’s Sam questions whether he’s mad, in a coma, or back in time. A police procedural shot through with strange imagery and ongoing mystery, Sam’s two season journey captivated a nation.
So much so, even when Life on Mars had ended in as ambiguous fashion as it began, the writers couldn’t resist a sequel series – Ashes to Ashes. Revolving around Keeley Hawes’ London-based officer Alex Drake, the premise moved from 70’s glam rock to 1981 and New Romantic fashion, swopping Ziggy Stardust for Duran Duran, but keeping Gene Hunt and a few of the stronger characters from 1970’s Manchester. Running again for two seasons, both almost on a par with Life on Mars and again tapping a police procedural format, Ashes to Ashes resolved the mystery of both Alex and Sam. Were they mad, in a coma or really back in time? You’d best watch and find out.