Life on Mars – a cult hit

It took 7 years to get the series made and against all the odds it has been a huge hit for the Beeb.   For those who haven’t heard it is the story of a police officer, Sam Tyler who, after a hit and run accident, finds himself in 1973.   While struggling to understand whether he is in a coma, mad, or has gone back in time he joins the CID team lead by DCI Hunt.

Philip Glenister
Hunt is a solidly ‘unreconstructed’ ’70’s man.   His blunt speaking leaves no room for ambiguity (“Don’t move – you are surrounded by armed bastards”). He cuts through Tyler’s 21st-century, politically correct pseudo-babble to expose the nonsense we can end up speaking (Tyler: “I think we need to explore the chance this was a hate crime.” Hunt: “What? As opposed to one of those ”I really, really like you murders?”).

When accused of being an “overweight, over-the-hill, nicotine-stained, borderline-alcoholic homophobe with a superiority complex and an unhealthy obsession with male bonding”, he retorts: “You make that sound like a bad thing.”

Famous for his one liners (”She was as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot”) practically everying he says is either homophobic, racist, sexist or politically incorrect.   And as an antidote to the environment we live in today, it is refreshing.   Witness the exchange between Hunt, Tyler and WDC Annie Cartwright:

Hunt:  ‘Oi, Flash knickers, mines a coffee, two sugars’

Tyler:  ‘You can’t speak to a woman police officer like that, she’s a detective’

Hunt:  ‘Well luv, see if you can detect me a garibaldi to go with my coffee’

So how did they get away with reprising The Sweeney in 2007?   The secret was Tyler.   He is the moral guardian of our 21st century sensibilities, regularly reprimanding his boss; they squabble like an old married couple.

And the other reason is that Hunt has personal qualities that are, thankfully, still held in high regard.  In a world of short-term contracts, job insecurity and portfolio careers, Hunt’s undying loyalty to his squad (even while rabidly insulting them) make us wistful for a time gone by when you had a job (and colleagues) for life.   And plain speaking was en vogue.

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