Perhaps it's my affection for England - a love that makes my wife roll her eyes - that causes me to have a higher regard for BBC and ITV small screen productions than those of America, which seem so crass in comparison. So many of the former seem uncommonly funny, intelligent, or both. FOYLE'S WAR is an uncommonly intelligent detective drama, a period piece set on England's south coast in 1940. And, to keep the record straight, my wife's dedication to this series is at least as pronounced as mine, if not more so.
Michael Kitchen is Detective Inspector Christopher Foyle, who's ordered to remain at his post as homicide investigator for Hastings and its environs; he'd much rather be doing his bit for King and Empire fighting the Nazis across the Channel. Indeed, his son is a flying officer with the RAF. The two other series regulars are Samantha "Sam" Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks), the Women's Royal Army Corps enlistee assigned as his driver, and Paul Milner (Anthony Howell), Foyle's assistant inspector recently returned to home front duty after being wounded with the Army during the disastrous British invasion of Norway.
In Series One,the murders occur in contexts that include sexual harassment, anti-semitism, police brutality, local jingoism, sabotage, and conscientious objection - all set against a backdrop of Luftwaffe bombing raids and the fear of imminent amphibious invasion by the German Wehrmacht.
The character of Foyle - intelligent, perceptive, reserved, compassionate, wounded by his wife's recent death, worried for his son's safety - epitomizes the phrase "still waters run deep." The viewer embarks into each episode wondering what new layer of Foyle's persona will be revealed. (Not to give too much away, but I've just seen the first episode of Series Two, which gives evidence of an old and tragic love affair involving Foyle and a now-married gentlewoman.) And the evolution of the relationship between Foyle and the occasionally cheeky Sam is one of the major delights of the miniseries as the latter proves she's smart, intuitive, and potentially more useful than just a lowly chauffeur.
The various murders investigated by the trio are never straightforward, but involve clever plot twists and hidden motives, the solutions to which silently gestate in the Inspector's mind before being revealed at the end of the story, much like the Sherlock Holmes mysteries of old.
There are, of course, uneven moments to Series One which allow for only four stars. I trust, as the show matures, that it will only get better. The areas that need no improvement are the period costuming, props and sets, all of which are superbly done and a delight to an Anglophile.