Friday, December 23, 2011

Endeavour: The origins of Inspector Morse

In a couple of weeks ITV will screen Endeavour, a new Inspector Morse spin-off commissiioned to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Morse's first TV appearance. Endeavour stars Shaun Evans as Detective Constable Morse, helping the search for a missing school girl in 1965 Oxford. In essence, this is Inspector Morse - The Early Years.

Sadly, many of those who first brought Morse to life on TV are no longer with us - producer Kenny McBain, screenwriter Anthony Minghella, actor John Thaw. But the new, one-off drama will feature composer Barrington Pheloung's irreplacable music, and the script's by Russell Lewis, who wrote for Morse and storylined the Lewis spin-off.

It'll be fascinating to see how Endeavour rises to challenge of emulating Morse in a period setting. Neither Colin Dexter's original novels nor the TV incarnation were hardcore police procedurals, so the absence of forensics, mobile phones or the web in 1965 won't radically alter how Morse and colleagues solve the central mystery.

I imagine ITV is crossing fingers for a big, fat hit in terms of ratings. The Lewis spin-off is approaching the end of its natural lifespan, with the sixth series due to transmit in Spring 2012 bringing the number of episodes made up to 23 - not far short of the 33 Morse TV tales. Endeavour would be a natural successor for Lewis.

Why do I care about all of this? I've been an enthusiast of Colin Dexter's original novels and the TV adaptation of his characters for decades. So much so, I've even written a book about them, The Complete Inspector Morse. The newly published fifth edition even manages to sneak in a preview of the forthcoming Endeavour special.

So when ITV broadcasts Endeavour on January 2nd at 9pm, I'll be watching. Hoping it does justice to Dexter's characters, and to the rich legacy left behind by the likes of McBain, Minghella and Thaw. Hoping they used Pheloung's Morse-coded theme music. It's more than a decade since we had a new Morse on TV. Here's hoping for a cracker.

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