For anyone raised on a steady diet of American prime-time detective shows, the arrival of Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse on Mystery! was certain to be a shock. "I'm a quite different kettle of fish," Morse (John Thaw) tells his new aide, Sergeant Lewis (Kevin Whately), in that first program.
It is a fair warning. Morse is often morose and cranky and, when he is, he'd rather stare at the bubbles in his beer than engage in casual conversation. His lack of normal social graces is so profound that Lewis looks positively dumbfounded when Morse asks him, in the Twilight of the Gods episode, how the wife and kids are doing. It is the first time in seven seasons that Morse has shown any interest whatever in Lewis' family.
Morse is definitely not a demographically correct sort of television detective. He's middle-aged with white hair, not the macho young stud favored by American advertisers. But then Barnaby Jones was an older guy with white hair, too, and he had a pretty long run. There's a big difference, though: you'd never catch Barnaby rushing off to choir practice right after cuffing a criminal, as Morse does in his very first television case, The Dead of Jericho.
Like Columbo and Spenser, Morse refuses to acknowledge his first name because it's so awful. If his nickname is any indication -- in the Deceived by Flight episode, we learn the boys at school used to call him "Pagan" -- one can hardly blame him.
Inspector Morse Series 10 | Inspector Morse Series 11 | Inspector Morse Series 12 | The Remorseful Day: The Inspector Morse Finale | The Last Morse: A Documentary
Case Book: Finding the Perfect Exit for a Great Detective | Case Book: Farewell John Thaw
The preceding is an excerpt taken from the book,
MYSTERY!: A Celebration, by Ron Miller
(published by KQED Books).
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