Endeavour 5, ITV, with Shaun Evans

FROM MAMMOTH SCREEN FOR ITV ENDEAVOUR ON ITV1 Pictured: SHAUN EVANS as Dectective Sergeant Endeavour Morse ad ROGER ALLAM as Detective Chief Inspector Fred Thursday Shaun Evans returns as the recently promoted Detective Sergeant Endeavour Morse. Also returning Roger Allam (Detective Chief Inspector Fred Thursday), Anton Lesser (Chief Superintendent Reginald Bright), Dakota Blue Richards (WPC Shirley Trewlove), Sean Rigby (Sergeant Jim Strange), James Bradshaw (Dr. Max DeBryn), Caroline O'Neil (Win Thursday) and Abigail Thaw (Dorothea Frazil). The series also sees the arrival of new recruit Detective Constable George Fancy, played by Lewis Peek, whom Morse has to reluctantly mentor. The new series begins with Morse having finally passed his Sergeant’s exams, as Oxford City Police merges into Thames Valley Constabulary. Joan Thursday (Sara Vickers) has returned to Oxford, but much is unresolved following her disappearance the previous year and Endeavour’s unexpected proposal. This photograph is (C) iTV and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the transmission [TX] date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be manipulated [excluding basic cropping] in a manner which alters the visual appearance of the person photographed deemed detrimental or inappropriate by ITV plc Picture Desk. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other company, publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Plc Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itvpictures.com For further information please contact: Patrick.smith@itv.com

Oxford’s students of crime – Shaun Evans as Detective Sergeant Endeavour Morse and Roger Allam as Detective Chief Inspector Fred Thursday

The 1960s may be swinging but glum Morse has a deadly serious job to do

★★★½

ITV, Sunday, 4 February, 8pm

WHY DID ENDEAVOUR join the police? He doesn’t seem to fit in, with his Wagner and crosswords.

He stomps about moaning. And he’s always got a face like a slapped bum on him.

Of course, whether it was John Thaw or Shaun Evans portraying the sleuth, the poor guy has always been unlucky in love. It’s 1968 and the permissive society is passing him by.

Joan Thursday returns

To rub in his loner status, as this fifth series gets underway, Joan (Sara Vickers) is back on the scene. If you remember, Endy was going to propose to her last year, only for the young woman to promptly scarper.

FROM MAMMOTH SCREEN FOR ITV ENDEAVOUR ON ITV1 Pictured: DAKOTA BLUE RICHARDS as WPC Shirley Tewlove and SHAUN EVANS as Detective Sgt Endeavour Morse Past and present collide in Oxford, as the auction of a priceless Faberge Egg gets underway at Lonsdale College. It soon attracts the attention of an infamous international thief - and consequently the newly christened Thames Valley Constabulary - as Endeavour (Shaun Evans) investigates a failed burglary attempt. They soon have a bigger case to solve, as the gruesome death of a known gangster threatens to expose the growing threat of underworld Oxford. But when a Lonsdale don connected to the auction is murdered in a similarly grisly way, Endeavour begins to suspect the seemingly separate cases may be somehow connected. When the organiser of the auction also meets a bloodthirsty end, he's convinced. The hunt is underway to find a ruthless and violent serial killer, and track down the next victim before it's too late. Meanwhile, newly-promoted Endeavour struggles with his role as he's forced to mentor young detective constable George Fancy (Lewis Peek), and a surprise reappearance opens up old wounds. This photograph is (C) iTV and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the transmission [TX] date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be manipulated [excluding basic cropping] in a manner which alters the visual appearance of the person photographed deemed detrimental or inappropriate by ITV plc Picture Desk. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other company, publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Plc Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itvpictures.com For further information please contact: Patrick.smith@itv.com

Feeling rosy? Dakota Blue Richards as WPC Shirley Trewlove and Shaun Evans as Endeavour

Even his promotion to detective sergeant hasn’t cheered him up. Perhaps he suspects that the demise of Oxford City Police, now absorbed into Thames Valley Constabulary, could blight his future. Not everyone will be moving to the force’s new HQ…

And there is the grim business of a slain boxer to unravel. In Muse, the first of six feature-length films, he is found with three bullets in his chest and a spike driven through his ear. [Read more…]

Inspector Morse — Killer TV No.32


ITV, 1987-2000

‘Richards didn’t kill her, but I’ll tell you who did. Do you want to know?’ – Detective inspector Morse
‘Are you taking the piss?’ – Detective sergeant Lewis
‘No, no, I’m not. The man who killed Anne Staveley is called Sophocles.’ – Morse
‘Who’s he when he’s at home?’ – Lewis
‘Look, I want you to do a couple of things for me, and then I’ll explain everything.’ – Morse
‘… Do I know this Sophocles? – Lewis
‘Only if you loved your mother, Lewis.’ – Morse
John Thaw, Kevin Whately, James Grout
Identikit: The cases of detective inspector Morse and his sergeant, Lewis, set in the university town of Oxford.

logos

TV schedules, particularly in the UK, are jammed with detective procedurals shot in twee locations, most of which are televisual Horlicks – Midsomer Murders, Rosemary and Thyme, etc etc etc. Inspector Morse, however, got the formula right, and remains an outstanding success that UK television honchos would today still sell their children to replicate – hence the spin-offs Lewis (based on Morse’s successor and former deputy) and Endeavour (1960s-set prequel). The picturesque setting of Oxford was not too gratingly prim, being fairly pertinent to the stories in that Morse was a product of the university (though he didn’t complete his degree). In fact, he is so sharp intellectually that it was inevitable that he should end up a loner in his profession, even baffling his sidekick Lewis most of the time, such as when he alludes to a dead woman’s oedipal predicament in the pilot (quoted above). Based on Colin Dexter’s novels and brought to the screen by Tony Warren, Anthony Minghella and Kenny McBain, the secret to the show’s success was not just the procedural/whodunit mechanics of the mysteries, but the character of Morse and John Thaw’s affecting performance. He was more than the sum of his habits, however – beer, 1960 Mark 2 Jag, crosswords and Wagner. There was always a hint of melancholy about the singleton detective that made viewers root for him. His distinctive character was evident from the very first story, The Dead of Jericho – the real ale, his looking for love (the woman he is wooing in the pilot ends up dead), the mystery of his christian name, the classical music and gruffness. To some extent there was a lack of emotional depth to the drama in that Morse’s character did not develop much beyond these traits during seven series and five specials. But the intricate stories, boldly given two-hour slots in which to unfold by ITV, and the chemistry between John Thaw and Kevin Whately as Morse and Lewis added up to a staggeringly popular formula.
Spin-offs: Lewis, a sequel starring Kevin Whately, ran for several seasons from 2006. Endeavour, the prequel starring Shaun Evans, had its pilot in 2012.
Classic episode: Second Time Around from 1991. Morse believes the murder of a retired detective may be linked to a cold case from 18 years before – an investigation Morse was involved with concerning the murder of an eight-year-old girl, and which still haunted him. 

Watercooler fact: John Thaw, who died at the early age of 60 from cancer of the oesophagus, was a hugely popular TV actor in the UK who won numerous awards for his portrayal of Morse, including two Baftas and three National Television Awards, the latter being voted for by viewers.

More of the Killer 50

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Endeavour series 2 – punch-ups and romance await

ITV had a press launch for series two of Endeavour yesterday, and if the opening film is anything to go by the drama gets better as it goes along and will pack a few fascinating new storylines.

There will be four two-hour films in the series, starting with Trove, which picks up four months after the traumatic events for Endeavour at the end of the last series.

The year is now 1966 and Endeavour is immediately, and perhaps too quickly, pitched into a major case, featuring a young woman’s disappearance and a murder. It’s a beautifully produced film, made all the more sombre by the use of Brahms’s Ein deutches Requiem, but this being the Sixties, My Boy Lollipop also pops up.

Shaun Evans – ‘Endeavour is evolving’

Shaun Evans was at the launch to talk about the new series and said, ‘At the beginning Endeavour is thinking, Is this the right place for me, am I in the right job? The great thing is that Endeavour is evolving.’

And Roger Allam, who plays Endeavour’s detective boss Thursday, added, ‘This series starts with Endevour coming back to Cowley station having been wounded and also having had the death of his father at the end of the last series. So I think there’s concern on Thursday’s part about whether he’s going to be as sharp and imaginative as he was. Here was someone who had a particular way of working that wasn’t usual in the police, but that was a very good ability to have in your police station, that imagination and intelligence. So his concern whether Endeavour will get back to that.’

Endeavour takes a lot of physical punishment in the opener, and Thursday is revealed to be handy with his fists. On the bright side for Endeavour, it appears love could be in the air.

World Cup and romance

England’s World Cup Final will form the backdrop to one story, and there are going to be major developments between Endeavour and Thursday.

The series writer, Russell Lewis, said, ‘What we didn’t want to do was let it fall into too comfortable a relationship that became predictable week in, week out. We didn’t want them rubbing along like an old married couple, so they’re constantly finding things out about each other.’

When questioned about Endeavour’s faltering romantic record, Russell suggested his bookishness may have given him too idealised an expectation of love. Roger Allam speculated on the Endeavour’s idea of the perfect dat – ‘It’s obvious. They stay in reading Henry James aloud, listening to Tannhäuser. It’s the perfect romantic evening.’

The making of Morse

It’s certainly been a near perfect re-imagining of author Colin Dexter’s Morse. What was intended to be a one-off to celebrate Inspector Morse‘s 25th anniversary in 2012, quickly became a runaway ratings success for ITV.

Russell Lewis told me, ‘The reaction from the audience just knocked us all sideways. Morse himself is such a well-loved character that they wanted to see more.

‘What we didn’t want to do was present him as a 45-year-old bloke in a 25-year-old skin and bones. He shouldn’t be as world-weary as he becomes. He’s taken one or two knocks already but the next 20 years would add to that. What our stories were about was the making of Morse.’

The launch date of the new series is yet to be announced.

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Endeavour ITV, with Shaun Evans, Roger Allam PREVIEW

Jakes (Jack Laskey), Morse (Shaun Evans), Bright (Anton Lesser), Thursday (Roger Allam) in ITV's Endeavour
Jakes, Morse, Bright and Thursday in Endeavour. Pic: ITV

Rating: ★★★★

ITV: Sunday, 14 April, 8pm

Story: Margaret Bell, a young woman with a heart condition, is found dead. DC Endeavour Morse suspects that the death may not be down to natural causes, suspicions that bring the novice detective into conflict with his superiors.

Colin Dexter and ITV created one of the UK’s most popular fictional detectives in Inspector Morse and you can almost hear the intake of breath among viewers as this first prequel series starring Shaun Evans approaches.

A good pilot for Endeavour went out in January last year, immediately won an audience of 6.5 million and the series of four films was quickly commissioned. So, how good is Girl, the opening story?

Well, it blows Lewis away. Kevin Whately’s sequel is still popular enough but has fallen into a rut as a rather uneventful procedural with flat characters.

‘Queer fish, stand-offish, rude’
Endeavour is energised with protagonists who don’t just go round saying, ‘Where were you on the night of the 14th?’ Writer Russell Lewis uses his two-hour slot to flesh out the characters, particularly Morse, creating a precocious detective not much liked by his colleagues but mentored by DI Fred Thursday, played again by the excellent Roger Allam.

As PC Strange tells Morse, the boys think he’s a ‘queer fish, stand-offish, rude’.

A fine new addition to the ensemble is Anton Lesser, giving us yet another snake-like character, this time Chief Superintendent Bright (ironically named, no doubt), who is a stickler for plodding procedure and who feels Thursday has promoted Morse above his station. Bright is the kind of boss we’ve all encountered – an unoriginal thinker, bit of poser with his foreign phrases (‘tabula rasa’ etc), and a snob who refuses to believe Morse’s theories, such as his suggestion that a vicar may have been at the scene of a murder.

A coded brainteaser for Morse
Bright feels Morse should be investigating a series of gas meter thefts, which is where we meet him as the episode opens. However, when a young woman, Margaret Bell, who has a heart condition, is found dead, Morse starts to have suspicions that it may not have been down to natural causes.

He is further perturbed when the partner of Margaret Bell’s GP is shot dead. A bike found at the scene is, according to the young detective’s Holmesian deductions, probably the property of a left-handed vicar. Pillar of society Chief Superintendent Bright orders Thursday to eliminate known criminals before bothering the clergy.

But Morse traces the vicar, who on learning that the detective was in the signal corp and is skilled at cryptic puzzles, gives him a coded brainteaser to mull over. Morse’s digging soon puts him on a crash course with Thursday and Bright.

Shaun Evans, Roger Allam and Anton Lesser
It’s a convoluted mystery, involving an eminent physicist, the dead doctor’s troubled sister-in-law, Pamela, and a local trade in amphetamines. The sentimental obsession of these period dramas – here we get all the vintage buses, 10 shilling postal orders, and ‘something for the weekend’ banter from a barber – gets cloying after a while.

But Endeavour works on the strength of the drama between the principle characters and the performances of Shaun Evans – excellent as the cussed, dogged detective – Roger Allam and Anton Lesser. Morse’s battle to prove himself against all his doubters, finally deciphering the vicar’s clue at the end, is full of intrigue and drama, and gets Endeavour off a great start.

Cast: Shaun Evans Endeavour Morse, Roger Allam DI Fred Thursday, Anton Lesser Chief Superintendent Bright, Jack Laskey DS Peter Jakes, Sean Rigby PC Jim Strange, James Bradshaw Dr Max DeBryn, Mark Bazeley Dr Bill Prentice, Luke Allen-Gale Derek Clark, Albert Welling Wallace Clark, Olivia Grant Helen Cartwright, Sophie Stuckey Pamela Walters, Jonathan Guy Lewis Rev Monkford, Jonathan Hyde Sir Edmund Sloan

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Lewis – still fit for duty?

Kevin Whately as Lewis in series finale The Indelible Stain. Pics: ITV

Script developer Charlotte Biermann investigates ITV1’s latest series of Lewis…

Last episode of the season, The Indelible Stain, is on ITV1, Wednesday 6 June, 8pm

The sixth series of Lewis returned amid a hiatus; before the first episode had even aired the creator of its forefather, Inspector Morse,  provocatively stated in a Radio Times interview that he did not think Lewis ‘can go on much longer’, which promptly forced ITV’s hand to retort that it remained ‘committed’ to the show. So, of course, the question is being asked: Is Lewis’s time coming to an end?

David Soul guest stars in ‘The Indelible Stain’

The current series has been inconsistent. After Colin Dexter’s heralded doom, the first episode – The Soul of Genius – with its theme based on Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, seemed to strike back. With strong, and at times witty, writing that tightened the almost father/son relationship of Lewis and Hathaway and with a delightfully self-conscious Hathaway being awkwardly seduced, it was a joy to watch.

Third episode of Lewis was disappointing
Then came the second, Generation of Vipers, which continued the literary theme with Troilus and Cressida and the (un)romantic theme of our leading men, albeit in a more subtle manner. However the overall story was not quite as tight and did leave a few ‘hang on a minute…’ questions in its wake.

Sadly, episode three, Fearful Symmetry, while obviously taking its title from Blake’s poem The Tiger, failed to keep ‘the ball up in the air’ so to speak. It was disappointing in that the investigation hinged on a soft toy and failed to fully intertwine all the strands; instead, it lazily gave the perpetrator a mental illness that came out of the blue at last minute.

To use Dexter’s own words it was ‘not up to scratch’.


British audiences these days are too sophisticated to be fully satisfied by such one dimensional and frankly, flat writing. Not when recent dramas, the Scandinavian series in particular, are offering such complex and detailed storylines.

Jason Durr as DI Peterson, Kevin Whately as DI Lewis and Laurence Fox as DS  Hathaway

So when episodes such as last Wednesday’s Fearful Symmetry are aired, then it is hard to convince those critical of Lewis that he is worth holding on to. Perhaps he should happily retire and make way for new blood. However, clinging to the hope that the next and last episode – The Indelible Stain, starring David Soul – will return the richness of the series’ earlier offerings, I do think there is still a place for these more gentle and comfy police procedurals.

Diverse TV audience
TV schedules should be diverse. We don’t always need to see bloody and mutilated cadavers and follow overtly gruesome plots of a human being’s twisted behavior.

Some audiences want to be able to sit back and feel the poignancy of death rather be horrified by human cruelty. Not everything has to challenge or have the zeitgeist, providing there are other such shows around.

Lewis needs strong writing
Ultimately, TV audiences tend to be loyal; look at when Silent Witness tried to kill of one of its leading characters, Harry. Outrage abounded. And remember, Lewis has been threatened before. In 2009 ITV was all set to cancel it but audience demand saw it return.

If Lewis is soon retired it will be because the plots have failed to intrigue and thrill, so strong writing is a must, but for now it would seem the everyman detective is still too fondly appreciated to be relinquished just yet.

• Charlotte Biermann studied acting at drama school, before going behind the scenes to work at the BBC on shows from Crime Watch to the One Show and with Stephen Poliakoff. She subsequently worked at two talent agencies and is now a Film & TV Script Developer

Endeavour with Shaun Evans PREVIEW

Shaun Evans as Endeavour Morse. Pics: ITV

Rating ★★★★½

ITV1, Monday, 2 January, 9pm

Story: 1965. A schoolgirl is missing in Oxford. A young detective constable is drafted in from the anonymous Midlands new town where he is stationed to help with the investigation because he knows the Oxford area. It is a case that will shape Endeavour Morse’s life and career.

He only ever used to be known as Morse, the detective finally revealing his christian name after Inspector Morse had been on air for 10 years in 1997. Now as everyone knows, Morse was named after Captain Cook’s ship HMS Endeavour and the moniker can be plastered all over this impressive two-hour prequel.

John Thaw

The much-loved original, which ran for 33 episodes from 1987-2000, starred John Thaw as Morse and Kevin Whately as his sidekick, Lewis, setting the standard for UK police procedurals. Thaw died relatively young at 60 in 2002, and while Lewis, of course, is still with us, the temptation to resurrect Morse somehow was too good to let slip away.

Shaun Evans and Roger Allam
This much anticipated new mystery is a scandal on a suitably large scale, involving bent cops, murder and a corrupt government minister. The cast – including Shaun Evans as Morse and Roger Allam as his boss/mentor DI Fred Thursday – are actors who bring depth to the lead roles, and the period setting is understated. And for Morse fans, the hero’s background is fleshed out well.

The young Endeavour is called on to assist in an investigation into the disappearance of 15-year-old schoolgirl because he is familiar with Oxford, where he did Greats but didn’t finish his degree. DS Arthur Lott makes it clear to Morse and his fellow draftees that they are there to ‘take up the slack’, do the grunt work, and leave the detecting to him and Thursday.

Morse and Thursday

But Morse immediately stands out as a serious-minded detective with a questioning nature – which sets him at odds with Lott. It is Morse who works out that the missing teenager had a lover who was communicating with her through crosswords in the local paper. ‘Codswallop,’ says Lott, but Morse is proved right.

Colin Dexter

Abigail Thaw

Fans will appreciated the crossword touch, which would also appeal to the creator of Morse and crossword lover Colin Dexter, now 81, who makes a Hitchcockian cameo in a pub garden. The drama is actually written by Russell Lewis, who has done a good job of embellishing the Morse story.

We learn how Morse got his taste for beer, classical music and the famous maroon Jag. Shaun Evans captures much of the character’s melancholia, particularly when the case blows up in his face and he develops an infatuation for the opera singer wife of a suspect.

John Thaw’s daughter Abigail
The production has so much of the original’s DNA in its make-up that several of the behind-camera crew had also worked on Inspector Morse, and there is even a role for John Thaw’s daughter, Abigail, who plays an employee of the local paper.

Scandalous parties and cover-ups

What begins as a missing person inquiry snowballs into a murder, a suicide and a scandal in which high-level politicians and policemen are attending sex parties with under-age girls. The story has a lot more grit to it than many of the originals or Lewis, and less of the chocolate-box obsession with Oxford spires and quadrangles.

Charlie Creed-Miles is the nasty spiv
Roger Allam is warmly authoritative as Thursday, the ex-soldier and solid copper who is willing to bend the rules to slap down spivs such as Teddy Samuels (Charlie Creed-Miles) and dodgy cops such as Arthur Lott.

It’s a sharp and inspiring tribute to Morse on the 25th anniversary of its very first episode. Surely, a series will follow.

Cast: Shaun Evans Endeavour, Roger Allam DI Fred Thursday, Flora Montgomery Rosalind Stromming, Harry Kershaw Miles Percival, Charlie Creed-Miles Teddy Samuels, Danny Webb DS Arthur Lott, Jack Ashton DC Ian McLeash, Richard Lintern Dr Rowan Stromming, Patrick Malahide Richard Lovell, John Light Dempsey, Abigail Thaw Dorothea Frazil, Michael Matus Brian St Clair, Emma Stansfield Sharon Vellie, James Bradshaw Dr Max De Bryn, Terence Harvey DCS Crisp

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