The defining feature of Ashes is it's subtle complexity. All the clues to solve the epic mystery are present, you just have to listen and look carefully and this applies to the overall arc as well as the individual episodes. This gives Ashes to Ashes an incredible re-watch value, and I guarantee that after you see the finale you'll NEED to re-watch the series to understand everything.
Ashes combines many genres, and it is a unique show in that it can jump between comedy, drama, horror, western and Sci-Fi/Supernatural themes. Because of this, I think that it satisfies all the entertainment requirements a "light" viewer might have in one sitting.
The music in Ashes is great, and all the great tracks from 1981-83 are used to brilliant effect. The series has action scenes with music from The Clash, Michael Jackson, Survivor, The Ruts and so on. (There even a recreation of the Uptown Girl music video)
Founder of the Gene Hunt Interrogation technique trope, Gene Hunt is about the biggest, most unreconstructed Heroic Bad-ass characters you are going to find in a cop show, and his one liners and crowning moments of awesome are a thing of legend. One scene for example, has Gene and his deputies storming towards a drug dealer on a boat under tower bridge sporting hand guns and an Uzis to the tune of The Stranglers "No More Heroes." Gene sees himself as the Sheriff of Fenchurch east, and he goes about daily life basing his morals and ethics on the code of the wild west. Ray, Chris and Shaz, the 3 more minor characters of the show, also receive their own brilliant endings and revelations through the series, and you can tell Ashes is really a series that focuses highly on character development.
Alright, time for a pros and cons list:
- The Epic mystery
- Crowning moments of awesome
- Ashes and particularly Season 3 will be very hard to understand if you haven't seen Life On Mars - The show practically picks up where LOM left of.
- I think Shaz deserved more focus, and she didn't really get it until the end of Series 3 when she became by far the best character of the Ray-Chris-Shaz trio.
Overall, the show is brilliantly complex without being shouty and obnoxious (like Doctor Who, Alias, etc.) and I love it. If you want a show that will get you really thinking then this is the show for you.