Review: 'Ashes To Ashes'

On paper, the premise for the new BBC America police drama Ashes To Ashes may sound formulaic: Sexy, smart policewoman teams up with hard-nosed, chauvinist cop, and it's love/hate at first sight. But this witty, inventive and extraordinarily entertaining import is no routine procedural. It may be the best thing on television, and more deserving of wide U.S. acceptance than most Stateside cop shows.

A follow-up to the acclaimed Life On Mars(since remade for U.S. audiences), Ashes is another sci-fi actioner titled after a David Bowie song. This time, the time traveler at the plot's center is Detective Inspector Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes), a modern-day single mother and member of the London Metropolitan police force who is shot and finds herself in 1981. Convinced that she is in a comatose limbo, Drake sets off to solve the crime that she thinks will get her back to her daughter and the present time.

But the show (like its predecessor) really belongs to Drake's "new" boss, Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister). The former "sheriff of Manchester" has brought his tough-guy tactics and politically incorrect perspective south to London, where he races after local criminals in an Audi Quattro or speedboats down the Thames toting a machine gun.

Besides the terrific scripting and performances, Ashes also looks and sounds great - an ironic, uncanny valentine to the era of New Romantic music, the DeLorean and Charles and Di.

Ashes To Ashes premieres on BBC America on Saturday, March 7 at 9 p.m.