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A misogynist, a bully and the most popular guy on TV

This week on our Karr on Culture podcast: One of television’s best shows just wrapped up — but viewers in the U.S. had to resort to illegal means to watch it.

Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt was a misogynist, a bully, fond of torture, and quite possibly an alcoholic. But he was, for the past five years, possibly the most popular television character in Britain over 40 episodes of the series “Life on Mars” and “Ashes to Ashes.” Actor Marshall Lancaster, who played Detective Constable Chris Skelton on both shows (Hunt was his superior officer), tries to explain why the recent series finale drew audiences bigger than those that bid farewell to “Lost,” “24″ and “Law and Order.” U.K. television critic Ian Wylie talks about Gene Hunt as cultural phenomenon — and why American versions of great British shows almost always stink. Finally, digital culture scholar Siva Vaidhyanathan argues that there was nothing wrong with American fans of the show “stealing” it online — and that the series’ producers may have wanted that to happen.



  • Macdak

    Ashes to Ashes was the show of the year. to bad it ended after 3 season.

  • Arsailman

    I’d love to see Life on Mars back on U.S. TV…

  • Sierra

    “viewers in the U.S. had to resort to illegal means to watch it”

    Speaking of…

  • CRE

    Not my kind of show. I like good detectives like Inspector Morse, Frost and Lewis. I dont think I would like watching this guy as the detective is a major reason why I watch the mystery shows I do, I dont do true-real crime but everyone has their own taste, I am sure its great those who like that kind.

  • Alex Drake

    I had to steal Ashes to Ashes too…I fell in love with Life on Mars and just had to see it. One of the best series in YEARS…American execs need to watch and learn :D

  • Annie

    The Gene Hunt character is probably in my top five characters over my long viewing history. Life On Mars was incredible (there has been nothing to compare to it) and Ashes 2 Ashes has carried on the thread.

    Yes, I have been watching both however I can and have visited fan websites to continue the fun. I have purchased the box set of LOM and Series 1 & 2 of ashes which I will be enjoying for a long long time on my all region dvd player.through Amazon UK

    I don’t know why the US TV/film makers think that they can produce as good a product or better than the original. US LOM, State of Play & Edge of Darkness were inspired programs (I think they were all BBC) and the remakes are perfect examples of how to ruin a classic. I know we did have some problem with LOM’s accents initially, but subtitles certainly take care of that.

    Glad you did these interviews am impressed) and my best wishes to DI Skelton, a copper with all the right moves, and Ian Wylie, who always adds to the fun of LOM & A2A and Spooks also.

    I wish we would be able to watch these programs here in the States without commercial interruption-

    I have also been watching Spooks for years too – Only wish we could see episodes 7 & 8 here once again without editing for commercials -

  • Jodie

    I won’t lie about watching LoM and A2A through youtube. I will say I do own them after having watched them not only that but it own them Region 2 with my region free DVD player. I will buy s3 region 2 on DVD when it comes out July 5th.

    This is a great show with an excellent cast, crew and writers. Hands down both shows were fantastic and I wish PBS and even BBCA (which I don’t have due to not wanting to pay extra on the cable) would show them.

    What I like is that the shows gained the respect of Ian Wylie who became our fan favorite journalist!

    I do wish PBS would show all of Spooks as well. I have to admit even though LoM, A2A, Spooks and other great programs across the pond can really put a show together in few episodes it takes most American shows in 22 episodes. As an American I find myself watching less shows here in the states and more across the pond.

    Thanks to Mathew and Ashely for creating such wonderful shows!!

  • pattycake

    I found it on youtube and watched all three series – was able to do this over the span of two weeks. I agree with the quality over quantity – since BBC isn’t a commercial enterprise, there is no interest in making a profit, therefore, good writing and characters are part of what viewers there expect. Sure wish we could see that here.