|I get the feeling that I enjoyed this precisely because I wanted to enjoy this - in that my desire made me willing to forgive or overlook a lot of the details. |
Although I agree with a lot of what's been said here so far, I would say that there are two mitigating concepts here;
I) That Life on Mars was a very difficult, if not impossible, act to follow, at least effectively. The very act of following causes causality problems with the concept itself; in that we're now presented with two divergent Sam Tylers, the one who returned to 2007 and recorded his memories for Drake to find, and the one who remained in 1973 but died in - I believe - 1980.
That both existed would seem to add a new layer to the original paradox, although obviously the show doesn't want to become mired in causality and temporal paradoxes.
II) That the first episode was designed to grab the attention of the people who've had to put up with their friends banging on about how good Mars was and finally decided to watch this to see what all the fuss was about.
Largely, the first episode seems to have been designed as a pure attention-grabber and, as people have been saying, suffers for it. The creepy opening villain, the premeditated act of violence - as opposed to Sam's seemingly random car accident - the fact that Gene Hunt realises that his concept of hard-knocks policing (an oversimplification, I realise) is rapidly dating and being replaced - all designed to capture both the old audience and a potential new audience, but in trying to serve two masters winds up serving neither.
Re: The Skirt - Keeley Hawes noted on Johnathan Ross's radio show last Saturday that it wound her up that she was kept in it for so long, and she was beginning to wonder abou the director's proclivities. It was kept on-screen for a bizarrely long time yes.
Re: Zippy and Bungle - it was a nice attempt at something new and interesting, but it fell a little short of the intended effect - although I'm not precisely sure what that intended effect was.
The 80's Action Television lens was presented in such a totally overwhelming fashion that it rendered some scenes nonsensical - I like the idea of an A-Team reference in that everyone's discharging semi-automatics all over the place but only one person seems to get hit, in the foot, even when it's Gene Hunt with the Gun - but then you have the Bad Guy with the armfuls of cocaine running away, and it all gets a bit silly and ott.
I did like Chris's moment, though, in that it was a very well-done way of showing that in the time period since we've last seen him he's changed from simply being the nervous, new, voice-of-caution to someone willing to show their teeth a little.
So, basically, I liked it. I liked the way that Gene, once the Sherriff, now has a boss who he has to justify his subordinates' conduct on the phone to. I like that Gene also keeps press clippings about Sam Tyler in his office, along with the James Bond posters to replace the Westerns. I also like the fact that Drake has a much clearer definition to her quest; she has to get back to her daughter (even though paperwork and reports are more important that being with her on her birthday post-hostage situation) - whereas Sam was always just trying to return because he felt he should, Alex has a drive, a true need.
I have a lot of hope for Ashes, basically. Probably false, probably in vain, but I'll maintain it, nonetheless, until it's savagely beaten and left in the gutter, in the rain, to the sound of Ghost Town.
Lastly; my personal theory is that these people are being actively drawn to Gene Hunt for a reason. Sam was drawn to him to act as his conscience, and to try to mollify his methods into a more modern manner. Without Sam, Gene was slipping for a year, and so decided to transfer to London, whereby, lo and behold, he's given (or asked for) a new, smart, female DI to help him make the transition through the dark days to come. Gene Hunt needs other people around him to temper his impulses; Ray acts as an id, all urge and no social grace. Chris is the counterpoint to this, all hesitation and without the overt desire to police by violence. But without someone else, Gene can't evolve into something new that will survive whatever's coming next...
Anyway, enough rambling for tonight...