UK TV

Lewis producers cracked Morse’s code

Kevin Whately Lewis: Reputation, which aired on Sunday night on ITV, showed once again that detective-show formulas are often a bigger draw than the detectives themselves. Just as Taggart outlived Taggart himself and Rebus is going strong despite the replacement of John Hannah by Ken Stott, so Inspector Morse seems to be able to go on even though Morse has passed the investigating torch on to his former stumbling foil Lewis.

Reputation was pretty much by-the-book TV Morse. In fact, it was concentrated Morse, with more Latin and Hamlet per square inch than any previous Morse mystery – as though the producers were trying to assuage any fears that the Philistine Lewis would take things downmarket.

As per usual, various academics and students were either murdering or being murdered. For two, very long hours, Lewis proceeded to stumble cluelessly around Oxford, no doubt with the kind cooperation of the Oxford Tourist Board, which must have been desperate for some new Morse to bring some interest to the town again. Like a Knights Templar conspiracy theorist, at no point did he use any investigative technique that remotely resembled actual police methods, preferring instead to search for answers in crossword puzzles and mottos. Again, so far, so old-school Morse.

Nevertheless, it was clear that the old Morse production team weren’t simply going to cross out His name in the titles, replace it with ‘Lewis’, and hope nobody noticed. Lewis remained resolutely the same character as before, despite his promotion, with the requisite erudition being passed on instead to former theology student turned police officer, DS James Hathaway. They made for an interesting team, with Hathaway essentially getting the really bright ideas but Lewis having the experience and wider knowledge to know what to do with them – a subtle shift in the Morse-Lewis dynamic. However, Laurence Fox (son of James, cousin of Emilia) followed in his father’s footsteps by playing Hathaway as rather a stiff individual, even in his lighter moments, leaving Lewis as the ‘heart’ of the central crime-fighting duo once again.

The final revelation of the murderer came as no surprise to anyone familiar with the Columbo school of whodunnits, although said murderer’s motivation for his crimes made so little sense, you knew in an instant you were still watching classic Morse in action. The names may change but the structure stays the same.

With astonishing ratings of 11.3 million, Lewis will undoubtedly be making a return to our screens in the near future, barring equally astonishing incompetence or bad luck. That means Morse fans can finally relax in the knowledge that the proven formula of a couple of murders, Oxford scenery and some posh people getting their comeuppance over the course of two interminable hours will be theirs to enjoy again. After all, just as a crossword is a crossword is a crossword, so a Morse mystery remains the same, whether you call it Lewis or not.

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The IT Crowd is actually funny. Amazing.

I’m flabbergasted. I’ve just downloaded and watched the first episode of The IT Crowd from the Channel 4 web site. It was funny. I laughed. Out loud.

Ignore the nay-sayers who’ve complained about stereotypes and laughter tracks, The IT Crowd is a traditional, studio sitcom in the same vein as Father Ted, and potentially as funny. It’s The Office but relying on observational and silly comedy instead of cringe comedy. Make a date for it in your diary.

PS If you’ve ever used the slideshow feature in iPhoto, you’ll practically wet yourself during the end credits.

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The horrors of the art house cinema

If you’ve been to an art house cinema more than once in you life, this article on Slate will ring one or two bells. I’ve already written about my last NFT movie experience, but I faced far worse back when I attended Cambridge Arts Cinema so often, I actually managed to complete a complete loyalty card (not an easy thing to do). That was on a slope, so whenever anybody lost control of their bag of Maltesers, everyone in the cinema became involved in a mini version of the opening scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Then there was the time a French couple turned up, she didn’t speak English, so he had to translate every line of the movie for her.

The best story I ever heard, though, involved Sense and Sensibility, when a group of country types actually setting out picnic blankets in the cinema. And then there was that posh woman in the audience of The English Patient who suddenly exclaimed to her friend, ten minutes before the end, “Oh! The man in the bed! He’s supposed to be Ralph Fiennes!”

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The F-Word’s coming back – with tweaks

Gordon Ramsay in The F Word
Gordon Ramsay’s The F Word has been recommissioned for a second season. However, it’s going to be tweaked, apparently.

I can’t imagine what they’re going to do with it. I liked it as it was, a kind of mélange of every other food show under the sun: a bit of Naked Chef as Gordon shows you how to make something, while roaming around at home; a bit of Watchdog, with that Giles Coren reporting on something we should all be concerned about (food in bins, double tipping, the sewers); a bit of Masterchef, as Gordon tries to make a better dessert than a guest celebrity; a bit of a Nigella, as Gordon chats briefly with another group of celebrities; and so on. There was nothing outstanding about any of these amuse-bouche, but together they made something reasonably tasty and fun to watch.

In shows like this, without resorting to a dozen focus groups, it’s hard to see what people might like and what they might dislike, there are so many different things. All I can imagine they’ll do is strip out a few parts, give it a bit more focus and maybe add in a few things to see if they might work instead. But that’s why I just write about this stuff rather than make it.

PS If you’ve arrived here via a Google search looking for the theme tune, it’s Babybird’s The F Word

PPS Went to Gordon’s restaurant in Chelsea on Wednesday. He wasn’t there. Damn.