There was a lovely article in The Independent newspaper yesterday about the new Inspector Morse spin-off drama 'Lewis', starring Kevin Whately. Journalist Gerard Gilbert has obviously seen the special and gives it a glowing review: "...the highest accolade one can give Churchett's script is that by the end of the film, Morse's absence seems irrelevant. The transition is a complete success." This reinforces comments I've heard third-hand from the press screening, indicating the one-off was well received. Best of all, the piece in the Indy supplies a confirmed broadcast date for 'Lewis: Reputation' - Sunday, January 29 on ITV1. [Read the full article for yourself here: http://news.independent.co.uk/people/profiles/article338084.ece ]
I must admit to having had some ambivilence about the wisdom of doing a Lewis spin-off. The incredible success of Morse felt like it captured lightning in a bottle. Many other shows have tried with varying degrees of success to replicate the Morse formula. I guess A Touch of Frost is the most successful in Britain, but few contemporary detective dramas have matched the global love for Morse on TV - 200 countries and a billion viewers. But the portents for Lewis are looking good - hopefully the show will make them. Certainly ITV has been searching long and hard for something to replace Morse ever since the inspector stopped making a new series each year. Five Morse specials over seven years helped plug the gap slightly, but endless attempts to clone Morse [Midsomer Murders, anyone?] can't fill those shoes.
The last Morse got nearly 13 millions when it was broadcast in 2000. I doubt Lewis will get more than 8 or 9 million, simply because the rise of multi-channel viewing in our shiny new digital age has massively changed TV viewing habits. Eastenders struggled to pull 11m last Christmas when it was the top-rating programme on the day. A few years ago it was easily getting double that number of viewers. So Lewis cannot hope to match Morse for ratings. But hopefully it will be a quality show, continuing the legacy left by Morse and the late, great John Thaw, and attract enough viewers to merit further specials...
[Thanks to Graham and Richard for the tip-offs and insider information about Lewis!]