Who is Gene Hunt?

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Back during the pre-publicity for Ashes to Ashes, Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah started dropping hints that the apparently clear cut (or so they said) conclusion to Life on Mars, might not be as clear cut as it had seemed. Back then they were pretty adamant that everything had been going on inside Sam’s head – however now, in particular in an interview in SFX magazine, there were hints that Gene Hunt might be rather more than just an imagined character.

The running theme throughout the whole of Life on Mars was very much Sam’s uncertainty about what was happening. The big difference with Ashes to Ashes is that right from the start Alex Drake is certain that she is imagining everything, to the point that she will quite often refer to other characters as her constructs, or imply that they are imagined.

Then we had the final episode of series one, and much as with Life on Mars, it revolved around a key, life changing moment in the life of the main character, in this case the death of Alex Drake’s parents in a car bomb.

During the preceding episodes we’ve been seeing apparent splinters of the events of that day, however the big change between the splinters and what happens in the episode is that rather than her Godfather taking the hand of the young Alex, it is instead Gene Hunt who rescues the girl, and in clear parallels with the first episode brings the girl into the police station. Throughout the rest of the episode clues throughout the rest of the series have been connected, as, or so it seems Alex resolves the splintered memories of her childhood together, but the involvement of Gene Hunt, particularly when taken along with his comment to the young Alex that whenever she needs help she only needs to call on the Gene Genie, perhaps starts to answer the question as to why the adult Alex put Gene Hunt into her world – maybe the identical scenes from the first episode as Gene carries her into the police station are coming from her memories of childhood… Certainly with the pre-publicity hints, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next series is Alex starting to realise that Gene is somewhat more than just a construct. Having said that, Ashes to Ashes heading down that route will certainly start to throw a new light on Life on Mars

History Repeating at T5?

If you think the problems at Terminal 5 are anything new, Jeff Atwood has a great article highlighting a rather similar scenario at Denver in 1994. The similarities are uncanny, even down to all the over-hyping that proves to be spectacularly misplaced once problems hit the system, in the case of T5 being staff who due to other technical issues couldn’t do their jobs. At that point the system has just backed up totally, such that there are now 15,000 bags piling up at the airport. As Jeff quotes in his article – “It wasn’t the technology per se, it was a misplaced faith in it.”

Nicholas Gets an F

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One of the most satisfying aspects of the Apprentice is always watching someone who after all the pre-show bravado falls flat on their face – and every once in a while you get a candidate like Nicholas Brown – sorry, Nicholas de Lacey-Brown (if you read his profile he added the ‘de Lacey’ as he felt it sounded more sophisticated) – who falls so spectacularly that it is almost unmissable.

This time around, the first task was a simple sales job. No issues with buying – each team was given an identical van full of £600 worth of fresh fish, plus a folder containing two sections, one containing pictures of the fish with their names, the other containing a list of the wholesale prices of each of the fish varieties, and told to go make as much money as possible.

However there were a couple of tasks to do before it got to selling the fish. First off the teams had to decide on their team names, there was then the thorny problem of picking a project manager. Team names seemed to go okay this year, but being the first project manager is always very much of a poisoned chalice, so invariably nobody wants to do it. This time around though on both teams people volunteered, or at least on the boys team Raef who had been pretty vocal up to then was nominated and spent ages trying to back out, at which point Alex put himself forward.

Then it was off to a street market to sell the fish. As seems to be traditional in the programme, the girls team quickly degenerated into chaos. Although they made it quickly to the market, getting the better available pitch (apparently it sells five times as much as the pitch the boys team got later on) the stall was besieged by shoppers and some of the team started selling before any of the fish had been identified or priced. From what we saw of the girls, they quite often had to be pulled back into line, and it wasn’t exactly easy to manage them for Claire.

Having said that, we didn’t see much of them, thanks to the brewing class war in the boys team. At the beginning Alex seemed to have things under control, he allocated out roles, amongst others allocating Raef the job of identifying the fish and Nicholas the job of pricing it.

Both screwed up.

Raef managed to identify a crate of potentially lucrative Monkfish as much less valuable Turbot, and Nicholas priced up fresh lobster at £4.50 each – by way of comparison the girls were selling the same thing at £23. Both, when the mistakes were noted, started trying to shift the blame, and causing the beginnings of the split. Then, just to round things off both were also part of a group that at the end of the day sold £135 worth of fish to a firm of solicitors for £50 – they had been sent off, almost as a chance to redeem themselves – so when they made it to the boardroom, the boys team was really ready for a fight with each other.

With this task, the boardroom was therefore very much the main event. Despite their problems the girls made a reasonable profit – the boys scraped through with a profit of about £30. It was really no surprise therefore when Alex brought back Raef and Nicholas.

What was amazing though was quite how badly both of them crashed and burned. Their problem was that both of them tried to argue to Sir Alan that they were both there because Alex had an issue with their class – bear in mind here that Alex had a regional accent, and both of the others spoke with received-pronunciation accents – also bear in mind that Sir Alan left school at sixteen, and regularly says that he assesses people on who they are rather than the school they went to.

Nicholas came in with the first classic line:

“I feel that the barrier that has been drawn is kind of, you know, like maybe, kind of, educated against, you know, more kind of gritty salesmen.”

Alex nearly exploded at this point exclaiming that he was educated. Nicholas further dug a hole for himself by saying he liked art and had difficulty having conversations about football – provoking an amusing expression from football loving Sir Alan. Then Raef chimes in saying that he can talk to prince or pauper – “Which one are you?” says Sir Alan “The Prince?”

After that Sir Alan picked through Nicholas’ CV – Nicholas said that he was disappointed to have got a B in his French GCSE. Raef had said on his CV that he had faced death many times.

Ultimately though it was Nicholas that got the boot, with Sir Alan saying that if he was disappointed with his B, he’d hate the F he was getting, Nicholas was sent on his way.

Watching the taxi interview and the post-mortem show, Nicholas was blaming everybody but himself – and he came on to the stage, as he had at other points in the episode sporting a pair of oversized, Top Gun style sunglasses. It then turned out that alongside his law degree, he was a budding artist – check out his website for details – and the self-penned bio is worth a read too. However, in probably one of the most unanimous decisions I’ve seen on the programme, almost the entire audience, aside of course from his friends and family, said that it was right he should be fired.

So what’s coming next week? A laundry service… can’t wait.

If you missed it, the programme is available on iPlayer, along with the companion post-mortem.

Alternatively, enjoy probably the best bit of the programme on YouTube:

An Island Parish – Broadening the Focus?

One of the big downsides as a parish priest of appearing on a programme like Island Parish is the attention and extra pressure it brings – Rev Jamie Allen resigned following his appearance in A Country Parish (although he didn’t leave the priesthood and is now at another parish) and Seaside Parish noticeably shifted focus onto the Bishop of Truro later on, after Rev Christine Musser started getting hate mail.

Watching the final part of this series of Island Parish I started to wonder whether Rev Guy was experiencing the same level of pressure.

The series was filmed over the whole of 2007, and Rev Guy featured quite heavily in the early episodes, but as the series wore on, and in particular he started to run into pastoral problems with some of his parishioners he noticeably featured less. My thought is that if, alongside the pastoral problems he was also dealing with a large volume of mail from viewers it may be making a difficult situation worse, so maybe the decision has been taken to try to lessen his involvement and allow him to actually do his job.

Then last week, Rev David Easton, the Methodist Minister suddenly featured after being pretty well ignored up to then. I thought that might have been just for the baptism story, but this week there was a lot more of him, including pointing towards a storyline for next year as his posting to the islands comes up for renewal during 2008. Interestingly although Rev Guy briefly appeared, and turned up in the final group shot, it was Rev David who did the summing up voice-over. Certainly after that I’m expecting to see a lot more of the Methodists come next year, and hopefully showing more than one priest will help lessen the inevitable pressure the priests shown will receive.