Tag Archives: Gene Hunt

Tuesday Is Theme Tunes Day – The Sweeney


Before there was Life On Mars, there was The Sweeney. Before there was Gene Hunt, there was Jack Regan.

The Sweeney took the old-fashioned, cosy, affable respectability of the then traditional British police dramas such as Dixon Of Dock Green and even Z Cars and turned it on its head by replacing it with a gritty, violent realism and flawed heroes who would quite happily bend (and even break) the law to get the job done.

It was based around the exploits of hard-men cops in the London Met‘s Flying Squad (“Sweeney Todd” being cockney rhyming slang for Flying Squad), an elite branch of the police dealing with armed robbery and other violent crimes.

The main characters were Detective Inspector Jack Regan, played by the late John Thaw, and Detective Sergeant George Carter, played by Dennis Waterman.

The show was developed from a successful one-off drama called Regan which aired in 1974 as part of ITV’s long-running Armchair Cinema series. The Sweeney itself ran for four seasons (53 episodes plus two movies released in cinemas) between 1975 and 1978.

The show really changed the face of British TV crime drama and the influence of its legacy can be seen in shows to this day.

And, of course, The Sweeney also had one of the most recognisable and best-loved theme tunes of any British TV show.

Here are the opening titles:

And here are the closing titles:

Here’s the full version of the theme:

And, for younger fans of Life On Mars who have never seen The Sweeney and would like to see one of the main influences on the show and on the character of Gene Hunt in particular, here is the first 10 minutes of the pilot episode (the rest of it is also on YouTube, along with a few other episodes):

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Gene Hunt’s Five-Year Plan


Ashes To Ashes, the sequel to time-tripping cop show Life On Mars is on it’s way to America. That’s the BBC sequel to the BBC Life On Mars, not to be confused with the American remake from ABC that is half-way through its first season Stateside.

And while promoting the show, co-creator Ashley Pharoah and star Gene Hunt himself, aka actor Philip Glenister, dropped a few hints about the future and the mythology of both the BBC and ABC versions of the franchise. 

While Life On Mars, which ran for two seasons on BBC1, shifted current-day cop Sam Tyler (John Simm) to 1973 Manchester, where he finds himself teamed up with politically incorrect old-school “beat a confession out of them” Gene Hunt, Ashes To Ashes finds another current -day cop time shifted and teamed up with the Gene-Genie.

This time, however, the displaced officer is a woman – police psychologist Alex Drake (played by Keeley Hawes) – who had been studying the Sam Tyler case – and the location is 1981 London.

With the second season of Ashes To Ashes set to begin on BBC1 in March, BBC America will start airing the first season on Saturday, March 7.

It’s already been well recorded that while the US version of Life On Mars is following the storyline of the BBC original very closely, the ultimate pay-off to the show, the explanation for what is happening to Sam Tyler, will be very different from the ending to the BBC Life On Mars.

But Pharoah teased us with a little more information of what the future holds for the two versions of the show:

He said (regarding the BBC series): “Right from the start, we knew how we wanted to end it when finally the whole franchise comes to an end.

“We’ve got a terrific ending, I think. Very different from the American Life on Mars. We swapped endings drunk in a Manhattan bar, so I know theirs, and they know mine.”

Asked whether there may be another sequel, with someone else transplanted in time, when Ashes To Ashes ends, Pharoah said: “Never say never but I really would be amazed.

“[Season two of Ashes] is about to go out in March [on BBC1], and if that does well enough to give us a next [season], two Life on Mars and three Ashes would be a five-year journey. It’s been a wonderful journey, [but] I think we would probably say thank you very much and bow out.”

Whether the US version of Life On Mars will continue in the 70s or spin off into its own version of Ashes To Ashes remains to be seen and will no doubt depend heavily on the ratings when the show returns from its mid-season break on January 28, after it was moved to Wednesday night to partnet up with ABC’s other time-shift fantasy, Lost.

You can read SciFi Wire’s full report of the Q&A with Pharoah and Glenister here.

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