Monday, April 30, 2007
Having foolishly watched the first and last episodes of Life on Mars when it was broadcast, I am now filling in the chasm through DVDs. Everybody is right, it's superb, a television event as distinctive and strange as The Prisoner. But why, apart from internal plot reasons, does Sam go back to the seventies? Because, I think, it is the most recent period that seems exotically remote, like Mars. The eighties and nineties are not that different from now and even the sixties are recognisable as the present's precursor. But the seventies are an anomaly; everything about that decade seems more brutal and raw than anything we now know. Coincidentally, in the midst of my Mars-fest, this column by Niall Ferguson appeared. He wonders, for political and economic reasons, if the seventies are making a comeback. All of the portents and possibilities are familiar - inflation, a sliding dollar, stockmarket meltdowns, oil shocks. In Britain, we just need a phase of overbearing trade union power and we might as well start buying Mark III Cortinas and striped shirts with huge collars. As Mars makes clear, the seventies were harsh years. But - spoiler approaching - in the end Sam Tyler chooses 1973 for all its brutality rather than the bland, bureaucratised world of the present. Out on the streets with that magnificent monster Gene Hunt, he can at least feel something. He should, perhaps, have stuck around; if Ferguson is right, we are about to start feeling again. It won't be pretty, but, if you have any Tylerish tendencies, it will be exhilarating.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 4:53 am