If you’re new to the Inspector Morse mysteries, you have a lot of nonscary murder mystery knitting ahead of you.
I won’t go into the whole history, but Inspector Morse was a series in the 1980s and 1990s about, you guessed it, Inspector Morse. Played brilliantly by John Thaw, Inspector Morse was getting on in years, and had devoted his career to solving nasty murders in Oxford, England. (Those dons, killing each other off because somebody was about to expose an error in one’s life’s work! etc. etc.). He was unapologetically snobby, mercurial, and interesting.
Inspector Morse is really, really good. Beautiful acting, beautiful settings, and beautiful writing that make you not care that the premise (rampant violent crime in Oxford) might be far-fetched.
Inspector Morse had a sidekick, the low-key and sardonic Detective Sergeant Lewis, who at long last got his promotion and became Inspector Lewis, which became the series Inspector Lewis. I liked Inspector Lewis better than Inspector Morse, which is due in no small part to Inspector Lewis’s sidekick, Hathaway, who is the dreamiest overeducated detective ever. But I digress.
Endeavour, currently in its fifth season (in its sixth in the UK) and running constantly on my local PBS channel (and therefore available on the PBS Passport streaming service for members) is a prequel to Inspector Morse.
You might go into a prequel of two popular and long running detective series expecting to be disappointed, but you would be wrong. Endeavour is the best of the three. It’s set in the 1960s (in Oxford, naturally), and tracks Detective Constable Endeavour Morse’s days as a journeyman detective. The recreation of the 1960s is perfection. Subplots involving Morse’s love life are complicated and interesting, if slightly anachronistic.
Morse’s sidekick for this series is not his junior but his superior officer, Detective Inspector Fred Sunday (argh! It’s Fred Thursday! Thank you kind readers for the correction) who is played by Roger Allam. It is a sign of my ahem maturity that, as wonderful as Shaun Evans is in the role of Morse, my crush in this series is grumbly old Sunday. (Thursday!) He’s simply the best. Also good is Anton Lesser, who apparently was born to play irritable station chiefs. I will not pretend to understand the plots all that well, it’s kind of a stew of organized crime and crime at a literally old-school public school. The crime making sense is low on my list of requirements for murder mysteries.
All this should keep you busy for a while.