Ashes to Ashes (and its great early ‘80s soundtrack) returns to BBC America

by John Curley—The brilliant and gripping drama Ashes to Ashes returns to BBC America tomorrow night (Tuesday, May 11th) with the first episode of the show’s second series. Ashes to Ashes will air on Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. Eastern with repeat airings at 1 a.m. Eastern and 3 a.m. Eastern early Wednesday mornings. The first seven minutes of the first episode of Series 2 can be viewed in the video above. (I believe that Ashes to Ashes will also be available for viewing anytime after the airdate on BBC America On Demand, but I’m not able to confirm that.) 

Like its predecessor Life on Mars, which was set in the early 1970s, Ashes to Ashes concerns a cop seriously injured in the line of duty who seemingly goes back in time following the injury. Ashes to Ashes’ Detective Inspector Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) is a cop in modern-day London who was shot at the start of the first series and upon “waking up,” finds herself in 1981 and working under Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister), a character also featured in Life on Mars. Series 2 of Ashes to Ashes places the characters in 1982. 

In addition to featuring well-drawn characters, interesting storylines, razor-sharp dialogue, and, for better or worse, the fashions of the early 1980s, Ashes to Ashes also has a fantastic soundtrack that is chock full of the music of the time. (Ashes to Ashes, like Life on Mars, is named after a David Bowie song. The clown from Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” video featured quite a bit in the first series of Ashes to Ashes.)

Ashes to Ashes is a wonderful nostalgia trip for those of us that remember the embryonic years of MTV and all of the videos by the UK-based New Wave and New Romantic bands and solo artists that MTV played back then. Among the songs that will feature in Series 2 of Ashes to Ashes are: 

“Rio” by Duran Duran
“Love Plus One” by Haircut 100
“Rat Race” by The Specials
“Tempted” by Squeeze
“Town Called Malice” by The Jam
“Wishing” by Flock of Seagulls
“Lies” by the Thompson Twins
“Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie
“The Man Who Sold The World” by David Bowie
“Ace of Spades” by Motorhead
“Hot In The City” by Billy Idol
“Goody Two Shoes” by Adam and the Ants 

To find out more about the use of music in Series 2 of Ashes to Ashes (and to ask one question about the future of the show), I contacted series co-creator and writer Ashley Pharoah via e-mail. The Q&A follows: 

Do you write the songs into the scripts?
Ashley Pharoah: Yes, we certainly do. Sometimes we have battles in the cutting room when directors try and change them but we’re mostly victorious. 

Have you had difficulty getting the rights to use some of the songs that you wanted?
Ashley Pharoah: For some reason, it was easier for the 1980s than the 1970s. Perhaps they need the money more. 

Series 2 takes place in 1982. What bands and artists were you listening to in 1982? And how enjoyable is it to get to use some of the music that you loved back then in the show?
Ashley Pharoah: It’s a huge pleasure. I was something of a New Romantic back then, so listened to a lot of the obvious—Spandau Ballet, Scritti Politti, Grace Jones, Dexys Midnight Runners. I loved Squeeze. There was also some very interesting music coming out of Bristol, my home city—Pigbag, Rip Rig and Panic. And I was obsessed with early Tom Waits.

 I’ve heard that the show will come to an end at the conclusion of Series 3. Are there any plans to do another series that will bring Gene Hunt into the grunge years of the early 1990s?
Ashley Pharoah: Nope, we end A2A3 in 1983 and that’s where we will end the TV series forever. I think it’s come to a natural conclusion. It’s been a 13-year journey from inception to the final credits. 

For additional information about Series 2 of Ashes to Ashes on BBC America, go to

For more on the music featured in Series 2 of Ashes to Ashes, see

Series 2 of Ashes to Ashes on BBC America features a fantastic soundtrack of early 1980s music.

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