Customer Review

78 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy successor to Inspector Morse, 22 July 2011
This review is from: Lewis - Series 1-5 Complete [DVD] (DVD)
This follow-on series to Inspector Morse, which is probably the greatest ever British tv detective show, seemed doomed to suffer in comparison and yet over 20 episodes (and counting) it's more than lived up to expectations. It maintains Morse's languid, well-paced style that's at odds with most modern tv shows with their tight editing, camerawork courtesy of wobblycam, and their obsession with attracting young audiences. It continues to feature familiar actors, has high production values, unintrusive quality music, excellent familiar scenery, and has murder mysteries that are so convoluted nobody can figure them out.

Having praised the show, some aspects of the early episodes are uncertain and it takes a while to perfect the format. Early on there's an understandable need to link to Morse and so there are numerous attempts to shoehorn in references such as scribbled messages by Morse on crossword puzzles. Usually these homages don't work as well as they ought to and so thankfully, when the show finds its feet, references are used less often and with more effect. The oddest and most important of these links is the decision to morph Lewis's character into him becoming Morse. In the earlier series Lewis provided an interesting contrast to his curmudgeonly boss. He was content, was devoted to his family, and he employed dogged police methodology that would find the vital clue to the mystery while Morse was falling in love with the murderer and drinking beer.

Five years on, Lewis's wife is dead leaving him morose, so we see little of his home life other than to stress that he is lonely, and he solves crimes with brilliant deductive analysis. He even drinks lots of beer and listens to Wagner. At first this feels an odd change, as it seemingly ignores the Lewis character, but it makes sense as Morse's love of opera gradually grew on Lewis during the earlier series.

Lewis's sidekick of Hathaway also initially feels wrong, presenting a mish-mash of quirky sidekick features: he's a brilliant, enigmatic, computer literate, chain-smoking, ex-theologian with a funny walk. But when the role settles down, his relationship with Lewis is played effectively with frequent amusing exchanges and sparring when their contrasting viewpoints clash. The series also uses to good effect the various mysterious aspects of his past such as the reason why he gave up on theology. Over the course of the series he develops from being at odds with Lewis, to following his own hunches, to eventually supporting Lewis's hunches, a progression that feels realistic.

Making up the rest of the regular cast are Lewis's shouty boss Innocent, who takes over from Strange's role as the shouty boss. Innocent has little to do at first other than to complain about the press or budgets or whatever is necessary to take a contrary view to Lewis's to browbeat him some more. Pleasingly, her role evolves later on to her being more supportive of Lewis and hence it becomes more realistic. The pathologist Doctor Hobson (reprising her role from the later Morse episodes) is given meatier scenes and she has more of a rounded character than any pathologist on the show has had before. Her friendship with Lewis is believable although the unresolved romantic tension between them works best when it is hinted at rather than dealt with. As their scenes are usually played out over bodies, this means plot exposition can be delivered in a fun way.

As for the individual episodes, they are reasonably consistent. Series 1 and 2 are strong without a weak episode. The stories show a slight decline in series 3 and even more so in 4, but thankfully series 5 returns to the standard of the first two series. Out of the 20 I'd suggest that only series 3's Counter-Culture Blues probably won't get rewatched too often with its terrible acting, silly plot, and unoriginal idea that's been done better elsewhere. Aside from that one, the rest do well to introduce memorable characters while mixing in clues from literate sources such as Greek mythology, opera and art leading to revelations that aren't always the expected one that the most famous guest star did it. With a sixth series already commissioned and hints that a Morse prequel could be appearing soon, I hope that this annual piece of quality tv can continue for a while longer.
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Comments

Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 6 Sep 2011 19:40:52 BDT
Hello, Thank you for the great review! I am hoping that you have actually purchased this specific boxed set (series 1 through 5), because I have a specific question about it (you do seem to have posted the review before the set was released, but I know that the release dates are sometimes wrong).
I am writing from the other side of the Pond, since I'm considering purchasing the 'original' versions (the ones shown here in the US are, sadly, butchered in order to fit into a particular time slot, and I realize that we miss important information in these shortened versions).
I noticed that it is less expensive to buy series 1-4 in a boxed set plus series 5 separately, than to purchase series 1-5 in one boxed set. Checking further into the details of the two collections, I am mystified. If the information is correct, Series 1-4 consists of 17 discs. However, Series 1-5, which one would expect to take up more discs, take up only 11! Can you confirm for me that there are indeed only 11 discs in this set? (I did try the website of ITV Studios Home Entertainment, but did not see a disc count mentioned). If the disc count is correct, do you have any idea why more episodes suddenly fit onto fewer discs? Thank you!

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Nov 2011 02:44:18 GMT
Sally Foster says:
It is 11 disks in this set.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Nov 2011 04:18:24 GMT
Thank you!

Posted on 28 Dec 2011 11:54:47 GMT
Last edited by the author on 28 Dec 2011 12:00:48 GMT
I recon Morse now has a rival for it's claim as the finest Police drama or any drama shown on British tv over the last thirty or so years.

F O Y L E S W A R

Michael Kitchens acting is just as superb as John Thaw and i believe every single episode of Foyle was a stand alone classic in period drama.

However accomplished and successful the Morse series was not ever single episode was a stand alone gem.

The entire Inspector Morse drama was magnificent for it's great acting, intelligent scripts and John Thaw and Kevin Whately's partnership.

However one or two episodes were only average especially the Wolvercote Tounge about the theft and recovery of an Anglo Saxon buckle. That early episode was not remarkable, fine acting may be a disappointing story.

Every episode however of Foyles War dealt skillfully with storylines taken directly from historical refrences, The Barnes Wallace design of the Bouncing Bomb, The rescue of the soldiers from the beaches after D Day, Chemical weapon experimentation with Anthrax, the secret work of the map making for all the air raids.

Inspector Morse now has a pretender to it's throne as the finest drama of any era on British television.

Morse and Foyle dramas ever so different but both will go down in the history of tv as defining moments

GREAT DRAMA that all current directors are measured by.

Posted on 29 Jan 2012 20:40:11 GMT
Di Le Bec says:
Thank you for a really thorough and helpful review.

Posted on 23 Mar 2012 13:26:28 GMT
Great review, very thorough and clear. Having watched the first three series I actually of the opinion that Lewis has surpassed Morse as the best police/crime drama (with the exception of the poor final episode of series 3)..... it would be interesting to hear the thoughts of others....
From a previous question regarding comparrisom between different box sets, there are no cuts, the lesser quantity of discs in the 1-5 set is that its presented on DVD9 format which allows two episodes per disc rather than DVD5 that only allows one per disc. There are arguments about a loss of quality in DVD9 but after back to back comparrisom this is not detectable. Hope this helps (though is probably too late!!!!)

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Mar 2012 14:26:52 GMT
Last edited by the author on 23 Mar 2012 14:27:08 GMT
Thank you for explaining about this. (Yes, I did already buy them, but wasn't sure whether I had gotten 'everything', so you have reassured me and also helped the next person who might have the same question.)

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Jul 2012 06:20:13 BDT
Iqbal Faizer says:
Thank you for explaining this because I had bought the Series 1-4 DVD complete set when I visited the UK, but now wondered if having 2 episodes per disc for Series 5 and 6 would lead to quality degradation. Your explanation that this is a higher quality DVD format alleviates my fears. I shall pre-order sets 5 and 6 this summer!

In reply to an earlier post on 13 May 2013 17:12:39 BDT
FYI says:
What a fine review! I also admire this successor with it's great cast, including Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox, greatly.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Feb 2014 17:12:48 GMT
Timelord-007 says:
Fantastic well written review.
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