Sunday, 17 January 2016

TV detectives - new series

The new year has seen a flurry of new detective series, including the return of a number of old favourites. These include Endeavour, which is written by the excellent Russell Lewis. At the end of the last series, I did wonder how the cliffhanger situation would be resolved. The short answer is that it wasn't addressed very fully at all: Morse spent a bit of time in prison before being freed once the truth was revealed, and then found himself lured back into police work. Not totally satisfactory, but I must say that in other respects the first two stories in the new series have been well-plotted. The error was that end-of-series cliffhanger, which was simply over the top.

Endeavour is a two-hour show in the finest Inspector Morse tradition. Shetland, which returned on Friday, is split into a sequence of two-part one-hour episodes. The new story was, I felt, the strongest so far of those not based on the original novels by Ann Cleeves. A great location can do wonders for a TV show,but it's not everything - above all, you need a good story, and this tale of a young man who meets a grisly fate after travelling to Shetland by sea got the series off to an excellent start.

I'd not seen the first series of The Young Montalbano, but I caught the first episode of the new series. The setting in Sicily is again very attractive, and a lot sunnier than Shetland, while the story was pleasingly convoluted. However, I felt that the tone of the episode was rather uneven, a mix of jokey and serious that jarred a little. There's not much doubt about the tone of Death in Paradise, which has returned with more stories which combine Golden Age style plot devices with an exotic tropical setting. It's very light, undemanding entertainment.

I've stayed with Dickensian, which is a sort of soap opera bringing together lots of characters from Dickens, and held together by an ongoing murder investigation (that of Jacob Marley) conducted by Inspector Bucket. The cast is superb, but the story (20 episodes of 30 minutes each) is starting to drag, while the jaunty background music is an example of too much of a good thing. With this one, I think less would have been more. But what a fine actor Anton Lesser is. He plays Endeavour Morse's prissy boss and, in Dickensian, Fagin, with equal conviction.

And then, away from cop dramas, there's War and Peace. I've never read Leo Tolstoy, and I don't watch many historical dramas, but I do admire Andrew Davies' storytelling skills, and I must say that I am really enjoying this series. Some people tell me that it's dumbed-down, but if that's true, it's dumbed-down very well indeed.


Nan said...

I love what you said about Death in Paradise. Exactly! I do love the scenery, and it doesn't even seem to matter when there is a cast change. Shetland was excellent. And Endeavour - I agree with what you wrote. We are also watching Hinterland, but I may quit. Just too dark and dismal for me.

lifesart said...

Thanks for the good words about War and Peace. I was dubious when I saw the previews. I agree about Death in Paradise and I'm looking forward to Shetland arriving on AcornTV as it will take forever to get to broadcast TV here in the States. When I lived in NYC the public tv adoption of the latest British TV was pretty fast. Not so well South of DC.

Nan said...

I've just watched ep 3 of Endeavour, and who should appear but James Hathaway's father as a young man working on the Montmaigne estate, Crevecoeur, which comes up in (can you tell I've been researching?) Lewis seas 4 ep 1. Oh, this Morse, Lewis, Endeavour is up there with the best television ever, and equal to quite a few books even. Brilliant.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for these comments. Nan, I didn't pick up the Crevecoeur reference to Lewis!