Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Red or yellow? If only Sam could remember...

My name is Phil Woodford. I turned on BBC1 by accident and ended up in 1973. Am I mad? In a coma? Or just addicted to finding filler material for my blog?

Tonight's ep of Life on Mars was set against the backdrop of the IRA terror campaign on mainland Britain in the early seventies. Sam claims to be a dab hand at defusing bombs when the official disposal unit's delayed, although he does tend to get a bit confused between the red wires and the yellow wires. Apparently, if you could remember your red from your yellow in those days, job was a good 'un. Another device disarmed. Quick trip down the boozer for a celebratory pint of best bitter with a whisky chaser. Wasn't it nice of the terrorists to make it all so simple? I never realised the coded warnings were actually colour coded.

As bombs start exploding, DCI Gene Hunt wants to round up anyone with an Irish accent and give them a good kicking. Our hero Sam, however, somehow suspects that the explosions are really the work of debt-ridden local businessman looking to create the perfect cover for a bank job. Stands to reason when you think about it.

Even in 1973, I suspect someone other than DCI Hunt might have taken responsibility for the investigation of bomb explosions in a major British city. In the real-life case of the Birmingham Six (which dates from the same time period), both Special Branch and the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad featured prominently, if I remember correctly. But we're on Mars and the local plod are left to their own devices, with the battle-axe lady desk officer threatening to strip search her Irish prisoners and a traumatised DS Carling wandering around the city with a revolver and a grudge.

I know I probably sound very pedantic, but I think the suspension of disbelief required in this series is not necessarily confined to temporal anomalies. In fact, I find the test card girl jumping out of the old telly rather more believable than the recreation of the local nick. Let's be fair though. The set design, costumes, motors and decor are all worth the licence fee. Which I reckon to be £7. Or cheaper if your box is black and white.

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