Ashes to Ashes, the retro cop show with added '80s television cameos, is drawing to a close. Or at least, I hope it is and they don't have some devious Lost-style plan to turn it into a non-sensical eight-hundred episode trawl through increasingly desperate plot lines.
Anyway, while not Life on Mars (what is?), Ashes to Ashes has its moments. It has Gene Hunt, which I'm beginning to think might be the key to making a successful television programme. Forget consistency or genre, just whack him in anywhere to rage and rant and drink and fight and yet be fundamentally decent. He's like a misogynistic, northern Philip Marlowe. Have him present The Weakest Link ('Get it right? What do you bloody think? You're not the weakest link, you're the bleeding missing link. Get off my show, you pathetic southern pansy'). Have him march around Casualty (I'll show you a sodding accident and emergency, you miserable oik. Now stop bleeding on my lovely hospital). Actually, forget it, just send him straight to the news. That'll get people's attention. Forget the passive, calm, polite, neutral approach to telling the people about wretched things far away – just have somebody shout at the camera for half an hour about how messed up the world is, and how he'd go out there and sort out those Somalian pirates if he wasn't stuck in a studio waiting for somebody to wipe his spittle of the camera lens. It would be like letting Charlie Brooker loose on current affairs. In other words, amazing.
Of course, Ashes to Ashes demonstrates another ingenious approach to television, and I don't mean giving Keeley Hawes a flicky new haircut and a script that contains nothing but the words 'pout' and 'panic'. This devious new technique is simply re-naming everything after Bowie songs. The possibilities are pretty much infinite – this is a chap whose back catalogue was a more valuable investment than government bonds, even before money exploded. The highlights of the Bowie Broadcasting Corporation schedules could include:
London Bye Ta Ta
Property relocation programme, in which disgruntled posh people hop the first train out the capital and try to rebuild their vapid lives in the provinces. Lots of shots of retired lawyers staring at cows in absolute bafflement. More Agas than is usual.
Hate-fuelled talent show contest to find the most offensive person in the country. In other words, The Apprentice, without the unconvincing pretence of having anything to do with business acumen. Enormous ratings swiftly collapse as viewers across the country destroy their televisions out of sheer fury.
Oh! You Pretty Things
Patronising look at modern youth, in which a middle-aged man with a moustache attempts to understand teenage culture. Hangs around under-18 clubs, being repeatedly mistaken for a paedophile. Most scenes end either with nervous explanations to irate parents, or with the professor and his camera crew fleeing from a knife-wielding gang of the Almost Grown.
This is Not America
Rich Hall and Bruce Springsteen drive a pick-up truck around countries that are not America. Actually, I think I'd watch this.
Late-night science fiction drama, featuring a spaced-out Starman pottering around a psychedelic universe. Approximate budget of fourteen pence and two mirror-balls per series. Cult audience of stoned students and the curious few who wished 2001 could have gone on for another three hours.
Always Crashing the Same Car
Spin-off from Top Gear focusing on the dreary escapades of the stunt man. Cancelled after four episodes when the car goes on strike.
Documentary about Tom Cruise's decline from successful toothpaste advert into a crazed cultist.
Germaine Greer starts her own town on an uninhabited Scottish island. Series begins with utopian ideals, concludes with Greer hiding in a cave clutching a sharpened stick, clicking a torch on and off, and waiting for the end.
Loving the Alien
A Chinese labourer spends two weeks living with a violent, racist, recently divorced builder. Begins with glances of seething hatred and occasional shouts of 'coming over here, taking our jobs'. Finishes with manly hugging, floods of tears, and the immigration authorities breaking down the door.
Oh, and I suppose:
The Laughing Gnome
Ian Hislop shows us around his house.
Look, there are something like three-hundred Bowie songs. I'm going to stop before this gets out of hand.