|Honeysuckle Weeks and Michael Kitchen return in Foyle’s War. Pics: ITV|
ITV: Sunday, 4 January, 8pm
Story: Foyle is drawn into the world of the Nuremberg trials and corporate-Nazi collusion when a London University Professor, William Knowles, is found dead in a park after working as a translator in Germany.
WHY DO viewers watch Foyle? I don’t mean Foyle’s War, but Foyle the character.
Michael Kitchen’s protagonist is a widower who is modest, honest and loyal. He enjoys trout fishing
|In the shadows – Valentine (Tim McMullan)|
and a bit of golf.
Exactly. He’s rather dull. Columbo had his bumbling persona, Sherlock his brilliant arrogance, while Sarah Lund was self-destructively dogged.
But Foyle’s writer and creator Anthony Horowitz seems to give his man so little to do. Foyle seems to virtually ghost through his adventures.
Frasier’s John Mahoney
Meanwhile, he’s surrounded by drama. As the latest series begins, his driver Samantha (Honeysuckle Weeks) has big news that causes marital friction with her MP husband, Adam (Daniel Weyman).
Elsewhere in this first of three two-hour films, entitled High Castle, London University Professor William Knowles is found dead in a park after working as a translator at the Nuremberg trials.
And then there is the scheming rich American father and son duo, the Del Mars (played by Frasier’s John Mahoney and British actor Nigel Lindsay), who are mixed up with a suspected Nazi war criminal and MI5.
Amid all this is unassuming, emotionally constipated Foyle, asking awkward questions and riling his MI5 superiors, particularly Sir Alec Myerson (Rupert Vansittart). He’s more like a tax inspector than a detective hero.
Honeysuckle Weeks and Ellie Haddington
What does impress about the show is the ambition of Horowitz’s stories. This opener is, as
|Keeping an eye on Foyle – Hilda Pierce (Ellie Haddington)|
usual, inspired by true and sinister events of the Second World War and after.
It’s a complex intrigue involving Nazi collaborators from the business world, the Nuremberg trials and Russian assassins. It also touches on the lesser known story of 30 executives from IG Farben who built their own concentration camp near Auschwitz called Monowitz, which housed its labourers.
Upcoming tales involve the founding of the Jewish state and Black Market Britain. Few TV dramas open up historical times with such serious intent while remaining so entertaining.
The films also look very handsome and the casting is spot on. Honeysuckle Weeks seems to have developed the clipped delivery of dialogue straight from a 1940s Brit flick, while Ellie Haddington as Hilda seems to have stepped out of an Ealing comedy, and Tim McMullan looks suitably sly as a spymaster.
Foyle’s cancellation and comeback
Despite all this, the series has had its storms. In the dark days of 2007 it was cancelled, but then
|Centre of the web – Clayton Del Mar (Nigel Lindsay)|
showed plenty of Dunkirk spirit in turning the tide against defeat, and with the backing of its TV viewing allies managed to get itself recommissioned.
The series hasn’t looked back and remains a quietly popular ITV fixture. This is its eighth series and Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle is, as fans will know, now part of MI5 having left behind his police duties in wartime Hastings.
It’s audience must be in the older age bracket, and perhaps they like Foyle just as upright as he is – a decent chap with a stiff upper lip.
But one day it might be nice to see him put on a zoot suit, slip some knock-off nylons to a floozie and crack a smile.