I vividly remember watching the first episode of Inspector Morse starring John Thaw as the great Oxford detective and discussing it with a colleague at work the following day. That was The Dead of Jericho, aired in 1987. I really enjoyed it but I never dreamed that the Morse series would keep going, in one guise or another, until 2023.
Yet that is what happened. Inspector Morse ran until 2000 and although John Thaw died, Lewis, starring Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox, became a huge hit - contrary, I must admit, to my initial expectations. The strength of the writing, the quality of the characters, the acting, the music, and the production values, coupled with the wonderful Oxford locations, all combined to great effect.
I also had initial doubts about Endeavour, a prequel series starring Shaun Evans as the young Morse and Roger Allam as Inspector Thursday, who doesn't get a mention in the books. Again, the combination of Russell Lewis's skilful screenplays plus all the familiar ingredients and strong period settings made the pilot episode in 2012 a hit. And now it's finally come to an end, in a very enjoyable concluding episode which ties up most if not perhaps all of the loose ends.
These shows have given me a great deal of pleasure over the last 36 years. Colin Dexter was, of course, thrilled by their enormous success. I have a distinct memory of seeing his first novel for sale in an Oxford bookshop - 'By Local Author' - and nobody paying attention to it, when I was a student. Later, it was a joy to get to know Colin a bit. He wrote a story for one of my anthologies and the last time we met, when he was very frail, he was kind enough to inscribe a copy of a Lewis script for me. Colin loved Oxford, as I do, and the TV series certainly did him and the city of dreaming spires proud.