Winds of (loose) Change

I have found myself watching an old TV series again. Not that 10 years is particularly old for television in my view, but anyway. This time on the itinerary it’s 2006’s Life on Mars, the story of DCI Sam Tyler, who wakes up as DI Tyler in 1973 Manchester and freaks out about all the funny differences like the fish out of water he is. Or so it was sold by the ads when I first watched it. It is a buddy cop show taking place in the mind of a comatose copper whose coma visions take place in 1973 and include one of the greatest and most underrated characters on British TV in the last decade, DCI Gene Hunt.

Life on Mars is a great show, even if people I know keep telling me the premise is kind of stupid. The acting is top notch, each episode’s story is great, as is the overall arc of Sam Tyler and whether he is mad, in a coma or back in time. I am really blown away by the great way they convey the dreamlike state of the world Sam lives in. You never really see him go anywhere or find out about the daily aspects of his life. You never do in most TV-series, and yet, in Life on Mars it gets across the feeling of a dream.

The characters are a bit caricatured at first, but it becomes clear very soon that they are 3-dimensional people who mostly just try to keep up an act around everybody else, which especially is the case for DC Ray Carling who tries to get his macho on to be just like his big idol, Philip Glenister’s Gene Genie (They used to call him ‘Hunt the c

Aaanyway, I got thinking, as I am wont to do. I kept thinking that something is wrong. Something that should be there but isn’t. And then, in the middle of a long bout of fevered delirium visions during my latest spell of the cold it hit me: The Pound! In 1971, the pound became metric. Finally there where 100 pence to the pound, like it is right and normal for what wants to be a civilised people. Up until then, 1 pound consisted of 20 shilling and a shilling of 12 pence. When something cost 3/6 (i.e. 3 shilling sixpence) you had to get your mental arithmetic going. How much of a pound is that, anyway? The metric pound is the single best thing the EU ever did for the UK.

Why is that a problem, though? Well, I lived through a similar kind of change. In 2001, the Deutschmark was replaced by the Euro, one of those being equal to almost, but not quite, 2 Marks. For years, people kept complaining about that. If something seemed pricey, they would say: “3 Euros for a beer? Why, that’s almost 6 Marks! The insolence! Goddamn those EU-bureaucrats in Brussels and their regulation spleen!” or something to that effect. Why does nobody in Sam’s 1973 coma vision (spoiler alert!) do that? Why have I never, ever seen that in any kind of media that was actually made around that time? Granted, I never watched “The Sweeney”, which seems to be what Gene Hunt is modelled after. But did people back then just accept that change over night and willy-nilly? Did TV just choose at one time not to portray the people’s resentment? It would be totally in character for an old-fashioned curmudgeon like Gene Hunt to mentally convert a price of 20p into 4 shilling. What am I missing here?

Could somebody please enlighten me? Preferably older, British readers?


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