One day in 1973, in the middle of a murder investigation, detective chief inspector Gene Hunt turned to DI Sam Tyler to defend the reputation of their prime suspect. 'So? He pushed a bird out of a car,' Hunt declared. 'Doesn't make him a bad bloke!'
That last observation is wrong in so many ways. If we laugh - admit it, some of you did - it is with the benefit of hindsight, and the comfortable knowledge that such prejudice is unthinkable, or very nearly so, in 2008.
Gene Hunt is the fictional anti-hero of the BBC's popular travel-back-in-time drama, Life on Mars. A sequel, Ashes to Ashes, also featuring the fearless DCI Hunt, is now being shown. For nostalgia freaks, these TV dramas are irresistible. We are treated to colourful glimpses of 1973 and 1981: the clothes, the music, the politics (sexual or otherwise). This is a world without mobile phones, websites, or HIV/Aids. Gene Hunt takes us back to the Cold War, to crackly phone lines, to a world long gone.