Life on Mars (4 stars)


BBC1, Tue 20 Feb, 9pm

It should barely register a flicker of surprise that the Americans are all set to remake Life on Mars on their own terms, in their own way. David E Kelley, AKA Mr Ally McBeal, is behind plans for the US version, which relocates with a quantum leap from Manchester to Los Angeles. But it’s the rumour that German TV is to follow suit by landing its comatose hero on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall that will have Sam Tyler praying to gott in himmel. The key question is whether any of them will find a character with such brutish poise and casual inelegance as DCI Gene Hunt, played by the imperious Philip Glenister.

While the man still struts around like the proverbial cock of the north, no doubt reeking of Old Spice and spaghetti hoops stains, a warmer (marginally) Gene slips out and the touching scene at the end of episode two between Hunt, Tyler and ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ should melt the heart of a Raving Bonker. You may have thought that the show would run its course by the end of series one, but the single simple idea it has going for it seems to have some legs left. Storylines about racism, terrorism and domestic violence run rampant throughout this final batch of eight with Tyler’s ability to go back to the future and reveal some zen wisdom to his more neanderthal colleagues has just the right balance of wit and truth to keep it from feeling overly familiar and queasily mawkish.

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