Admittedly Gene Hunt is a cop in 1970s Manchester, but he is still at heart a Wild West sheriff. In fact it's pleasing to note that Philip Glenister also sees him as a sheriff, so that's what he is. Aside of course from being an overweight, over-the-hill, nicotine-stained, borderline-alcoholic homophobe with a superiority complex and an unhealthy obsession with male bonding.
Gene shows his love of westerns with the posters on his office wall of the Man with no name films along with Gary Cooper in High Noon. When the lads are playing football in the office he's more concerned that they might dirty Gary Cooper than that they're playing football in the office. But aside from a clear interest in westerns he acts like a sheriff too.
1970s Manchester is a frontier town where everyone trusts their lawman and he knows everyone. If a crime is committed, he doesn't waste time on pointless activities like detection, as he knows who did it. It was the bad guys. It's just a matter of strapping on a gun, racing round to the bad guys' hideout then ordering them to give up as they're surrounded by armed bastards. Then after a punch up all that's left to be done is to beat a confession out of them in the cells before moseying on down to the saloon to drink his body weight in whiskey. It was a simpler time.
Gene's finest western moment for me comes in episode 8 of season 1. Here the escalating body count doesn't concern him as much as that the gangsters have been polluting the glorious genre of the American Western by making mucky versions of his favourite films, including Once Upon a Time in her Vest.
Sadly, when the inevitable spin-off sequel Ashes to Ashes came along the Gene Genie is no longer a sheriff. The times, the need to respect a criminal's rights as much as the victim's, and Keeley Hawes's perm have worn him down and he can no longer stitch up whoever he fancies for the crime. But he still wears the cowboy boots and he also got in episode 3 to wear a poncho and dress up as Clint Eastwood.
For season 2 of Ashes to Ashes we have been promised a return to the darker side of Gene that was shown in Life on Mars. So here's hoping that when the Gene Genie returns, he does so in top form and he remembers he's a sheriff again.
Youtube seems to have taken a lot of Gene Hunt clips and classic one-liners away but here's a couple of good moments. Firstly Gene's legendary non-pc speech where he manages to insult every minority group on the planet in about ten seconds. And then from Ashes to Ashes, his classic meeting with Lord Scarman explaining where it all went wrong.