What I'm Watching: Endeavour
Series four of itv's Endeavour - a 1960's set detective series and prequel to Inspector Morse - reached it's finale a couple of weeks back (a fifth series has already been announced.) And I've finally begun to pay attention. Usually, I'm not the biggest fan of detective shows. They're grim, they're too long and I never guess who did it anyway. But my family have been big Endeavour fans since the pilot, so I've previously watched the series with half an eye. This time however, I put my laptop/book down and decided to give young Morse the attention he deserved. And I'm glad I did. I've gone right back to the beginning now and I'm hugely enjoying every episode. Two hours long or not.
Inspector Morse, if you don't know, was a successful and long running series in the eighties and nineties, based on the crime novels by Colin Dexter. Originally played by John Thaw, the character of old Morse is already fixed in the minds of many: kind of a grumpy old man, a bit lonely, a little snobbish (intellectually) but fiercely intelligent, a lover of cryptic crosswords and opera, an Oxford drop-out, and a bit of a drinker, with a weak spot where beautiful women are concerned. For Morse fans, knowing that other incarnation of the character is both a blessing and a curse. It must be fun to see the traits that young Morse already has, and those he's beginning to develop, but it's sad that we already know how he ends up.
Still, I never watched Inspector Morse myself (although I did see the odd Lewis, which followed his sergeant and ran throughout the 2000's) and I've happily fallen in love with Shaun Evans' take on the character. Endeavour, (the title refers to Morse's little mentioned first name) is set in Oxford - like the original series - and each episode follows a different case (read: murder) being investigated by the Oxford City police. In the pilot, Morse moves back to the city and starts a new job as a detective constable. But the best thing about Endeavour for me, is the characters, and particularly Morse's relationship with his boss, Fred Thursday (played by Roger Allam). Morse seems so vulnerable sometimes, despite his big brain, and I love how Thursday becomes almost a father figure. Interesting too are the relationships with his other colleagues, Bright, the Superintendent (Anton Lesser) Sergeant Jakes (who outranks Morse but is often outstripped by him) and Strange - who is Morse's boss in the old series, but here begins life as a uniformed policeman. In the later series there's also WPC Trewlove (The Golden Compass) and I can't help wondering whether her name is significant...
Morse definitely has a weak spot when it comes to women in general, and although they occasionally turn out to be the murderer, there have been some great romantic and will-they-won't-they moments in Endeavour so far. I especially liked his relationship with Monica, the nurse who lives in his building and the on-going saga of Morse and Joan, Thursday's daughter. Morse is so awkward and socially inept, but still you can see why the girls like him back. He's very lovely, if useless at romance.
So, why should you watch Endeavour? Well mainly because both the writing (from Russell Lewis) and acting are first rate throughout. The relationships are well drawn and lovely and Morse himself is such a great character. The stories move along at a leisurely pace but they're exciting nevertheless, Oxford is gorgeous, the attention to period detail is great and I love the sixties fashions. It's the kind of programme where the characters stay in your mind long after watching, and there are currently four series, so plenty to get your teeth into - and if you get really attached, there's always Morse and Lewis to watch, and the original books to read.