Friday, June 25, 2010

Must Watch Friday - Lewis

As proof that great minds think alike, Kate Walker brings back the series that featured in the opening post of the week - where Biddy's Male on Monday Laurence Fox stars in the ITV detective series Lewis.

It’s all Biddy’s fault. (See Monday’s post.)

I wasn’t aware of the fact that she had planned to make the lovely Mr Laurence Fox her Male on Monday this week. And I’d already written a post for my Must Watch Friday on the great series Lewis in which he is one of the stars. So you have a double-up post today. But on reflection there’s little wrong – in fact there’s nothing wrong in my mind with a double dose of Mr Fox- or a double dose of Lewis for that matter. It is one of the programmes that the Babe Magnet and I share a delight in . He likes the setting, the intellectual jokes and I - well, I like Mr Fox. And the setting and the jokes of course!

If you don’t already know this UK police drama, Sergeant Robbie Lewis, played by Geordie actor Kevin Whatley first appeared as the work partner of irritable, drink and opera loving Morse in the dramatisations of the books by Colin Dexter . Set in Oxford, the series covered every one of Dexter’s titles right up to the moment of Morse’s death. John Thaw, who played Morse died himself in 2002 and that seemed to be the end for Lewis.

But the TV series had taken some liberties with the character of Lewis, making him a much younger man than the grandfather Dexter had originally created and this left the possibility of coming back to Morse’s faithful sidekick later in his life and career. The original series had been so popular with readers and viewers that ITV decided that it merited a follow-up series, and commissioned a one-off pilot to test the water. But apparently Kevin Whatley was not keen. Eventually he was won round to the idea and on January 28th 2006 the pilot episode Whom the Gods Would Destroy was shown.

I have to admit, I was cynical at first, but the quality of Morse productions in the past had never failed to hit the mark in over 30 feature-length episodes -- from the filming to the music, to the dialogue, acting and script -- not to mention to fabulous setting of Oxford - and it turned out, there was nothing to worry about; Lewis hit the mark yet again, in every way imaginable.

The story picked up with Robbie Lewis returning to Oxford Police from a foreign attachment, carrying the burden of his wife's death at the hands of a hit-and-run driver three years earlier, and facing a dwindling career in police training -- but before finding himself embroiled in an investigation into the murder of a brilliant mathematics student.

Ably assisted by detective sergeant James Hathaway(Fox) a former theology student, Lewis embarked on a bewilderingly complex murder hunt and uncovered clues left by his late partner, Morse, hidden in the files of a related case from five years in the past.

The ghost of Morse was present in more than just the subtle crossword clues and Shakespearean references peppered throughout the plot; his presence was embedded in the sharp exchanges between Lewis and Hathaway, and in the search for answers as Lewis slowly uncovered a complex web of deceit engulfing a wealthy car-building family and an honoured university professor.

Everything Morse had, Lewis built on; including Barrington Pheloung's sumptuous and motif-ridden music, as the straight-thinking, ever-persistent detective inspector Lewis groped his way through the intellectual minefield of Hamlet references and mathematical equations, to finally catch the culprit, only to face a typically double-edged ending when the murderer ignobly committed suicide.

Since then the series has gone from strength to strength, particularly in the characters of its two main leads. Each episode develops the relationship between them, dropping new hints to the past that has so marked Lewis with tragedy, or made the enigmatic Hathaway turn from being a theology student to the very different vocation of being a policeman. He’s obviously into justice and morality. And he realises he didn’t want to be a priest. He wanted to do something more proactive, something day-to-day, hands on in a challenging and demanding way.

As Kevin Whatley says: We are still exploring the Hathaway relationship with Lewis. They’re developing that gradually as we did with Morse and Lewis. It still keeps me interested and we have a lot of fun doing it. I think the characters can develop more.”

And asked about Hathaway’s relationship with Lewis. Laurence Fox says, “Lewis started out quite sterile toward him, but he does warm to me a bit during the series, which is a nice thread that goes through it. My character is quite grumpy and aloof too and although they have a few common reference points, fundamentally they are very different people.

“Hathaway is slightly embarrassed of his learning and he doesn’t want it to come between him and Lewis. Lewis is very much a salt-of-the-earth type, they are such different people, and Hathaway is sensitive to the fact that he is telling someone older and wiser than him stuff that he’s learnt as part of his formal education.

“He’s a modest sort of chap. He doesn’t want to scream and shout about how good he is at various things, which is often the way with talented people. But he tries not to get involved unless he absolutely has to. "

As with the very best detective dramas, it is the internal relationships rather than the actual ‘detecting’ that make or break a series and this is the area in which Lewis excels. Not only with Lewis and Hathaway but also amongst the other members of the police team - Chief Superintendent Innocent (Rebecca Front) and Doctor Laura Hobson (Clare Holman) where a slow romantic relationship might - or might not be developing between the police doctor and the widowed Lewis.

Some of the plots may be convoluted fantastic to the point of disbelief, but the performances are always well worth watching. And with a gallery of appearances by guest stars such as Timothy West, Simon Callow, Robert Hardy, Joanna Lumley and Rupert Graves there are plenty of those.

Lewis has just completed its fourth series and I’m still looking forward to more. It is worrying that so many murders are committed in this very beautiful part of the English country, but as long as Lewis and Hathaway are there to investigate - and as long as their relationship continues to develop and grow - and solve them, I’ll be happy. In fact the one point I really have to dispute in the series is, as my friend who lives in Oxford always points out – the fact that they always (as Morse used to) manage to get a parking space no matter where they are.

Kate Walker's next release for Mills & Boon Modern Romance is a little bit unusual. The Good Greek Wife? is part of a four book mini-series that retells classic Greek myths updating and 'modernising' them into a romance form. The mini-series is labelled The Greek Tycoons - Legends are Made of Men like These! The Good Greek Wife? is a retelling of the story of Odysseus and is out on July 2nd.

The Good Greek Wife? will not be published in The Greek Tycoons collection in Presents Extra until October but Kate's last Presents title The Konstantos Marriage Demand, with another sexy Greek hero is still available .

You can read how Kate approached this challenge of writing The Good Greek Wife? on her web site . And you'll find all her most up to date news on her blog.


  1. Hi Kate!
    We love Inspector Lewis at our house. Being in the USA, we're behind in season releases. The next season comes to PBS in August. Can't wait.
    I love the relationship/respect/bonding between Hathaway and Lewis.
    Enjoyed the post.

  2. Hi Carol - I think you'll like the next season -enjoy. And yes, the relationship between Lewis and Hathaway is one of the best things in it. But there is another relationship in Series 4 ! ;o)

  3. Oooo was busy yesterday and missed this! Love that we are so in tune, Kate!

    Ahhhh Mr Fox...