Endeavour Morse series commissioned

News reaches us at Fedora that following the screening of Endeavor in January, ITV has now commissioned a series of four feature-length films in which we will continue to follow the early career of Inspector Morse. Shaun Evans will return to play the role created so memorably by John Thaw and will presumably retain the 1960s setting. Colin Dexter stays on board as consultant and the main writer on the series will be the very experienced Russell Lewis. He wrote the first film, worked on the original series of Inspector Morse and also developed the hugely popular Lewis spin-off starring Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox. Are remakes, sequels and prequels the inevitable way of the future for cash-strapped broadcasters these days?

13 March 2012 – Update: ITV have confirmed that the cast for the series, which will begin filming this Summer, will see the return of:

Acclaimed stage and screen actor Roger Allam as Endeavour’s senior partner, Detective Inspector Fred Thursday. James Bradshaw will return as Dr Max Debryn and John Thaw’s daughter Abigail will make further guest appearances as Dorothea Frazil.

This is very good news as far as I’m concerned as I thought the casting in the first story was very successful. That film is already out on DVD incidentally for those who missed it.

The official ITV website for the series can be found at: www.itv.com/endeavour

Sequels, prequels and remakes are generally frowned upon, not just because they are usually inferior to the original but because they are signs of artistic timidity and cupidity. I certainly don’t want to re-watch the remake of The Prisoner again despite the presence of Ian Mckellen. On the other hand, there are plenty of examples where this has paid off however – my list of favourite crime and mystery remakes would have to include the following half dozen titles at least:

The Maltese Falcon (1941)
This was the third adaptation of the novel by the same studio in 10 years – very much a case of ‘third time lucky’ in this case, though the 1931 version starring Ricardo Cortez and Bebe Daniels is also highly impressive.

Scarface (1983)
More people have probably seen this than the original – that is a shame of course, but they are very different animals and De Palma’s film certainly deserves it own place at the table.

Heat (1996)
Michael Mann remade his own TV movie, LA Takedown, to deliver an overrated but still appreciably stronger film. The remake of his own Miami Vice however was incredibly dull …

Ransom (1996)
Originally a live one-hour TV drama then turned into a 1950s movie, the Ron Howard version starring Mel Gibson has one act too many but is none the less by far the better film, benefitting from changes in standards in society and what is permissible in a mass-market movie.

The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)
The Steve McQueen-Faye Dunaway version now feels like it is all style and no substance – this remake has a much better plot and can stand many more viewings, even if the mystique of the original stars perhaps could never be replicated. And the ending is much more satisfying and certainly preferable in terms of its sexual politics.

Ocean’s 11 (2001)
Much funnier and snazzier than the rather dull original with all the stars given much more to do and makes the love story much more central and surprising.

Casino Royale (2006)
Well, inevitably this is much more coherent than the slapstick 60s version but this Bond re-boot is a really class act, beautifully honed by director Martin Campbell and with a splendid performance from new leading man Daniel Craig.

This entry was posted in Colin Dexter, Inspector Morse. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Endeavour Morse series commissioned

  1. Well, that’s excellent news – almost as welcome (for me at least) that Death In Paradise will be back as well!

    (BTW, you’ve spelled Endeavour wrong in the post title – delete this bit from my comment. Unless it’s a clever pun that’s gone right over my head)

  2. Oops – stupid banana fingers! Thanks for that – typo corrected. I really hope they keep Roger Allam as young Morse’s boss/mentor though eventually they should introduce McNutt, the character from the MASONIC MYSTERIES episode who Morse was very close to.

    Great news re DEATH IN PARADISE – I hadn’t heard that – I take it you got the einfo from your ‘inside source’ on the show …

  3. curtis evans says:

    I’ve just been watching all the Morse films the last few months (first time I’ve seen them all), so am interested in these spin-off series. I’m only surprised it took them seven years to re-boot.

    I’ve enjoyed the Lewis series (Whately has great rapport with Laurence Fox, and it’s nice to see Clare Holman linked with Lewis, given her appearances in the last Morse films), but you can tell how audiences have changed in the last dozen or so years. We all have shorter attention spans today, I think! The Lewises probably are technically superior (certainly the Morse DVDs need improvement), but some of the plots are really far-fetched, with far too many murders (Oxford is an utter killing field). Some of the Morses had unbeatable scripts, where the puzzle augmented a tragic moral of some sort, like in the best works by P. D. James. There have been a few Lewises of that level, perhaps, like “The Dead of Winter,” but overall it’s a not as strong as Morse, I think. Still enjoyable though.

    Though, wow, has Kevin Whately aged! I’m in my forties like he was during the Morse series in the 1990s and I can but hope I hold up better! Still, it’s kind of fun seeing him in charge after all those years as Morse’s dogsbody. Will there be an “Inspector Hathaway” series in ten years?

    • Hello Curt, well I think you have pretty much nailed it on the head – TV audiences are catered to differently in the noughties than they were in the 80s, even on British TV. Morse was, genuinely, a series of stand-alone two-hour films that could explore complex themes like Art or Religion (as in Promised Land by Julian Mitchell, a magnificent episode by the show’s best writer) and still make it an exciting detective story and with a visual panache that is just unthinkable nowadays. It’s hard to imagine a series that can have the kind of images that director Colin Gregg created in the beautifully filmed Who Killed Harry Field?. Apart from the more conventional series three, the one featuring female pathologist Grayling – tellingly overseen by current Lewis producer Chris Burt – it eschewed serial storylines and more conventional TV plotting and characters.

      I do enjoy Lewis, but it is, without question, pitched at a lower level (a smidgen above the more overtly farcical Midsomer Murders certainly), much less demanding intellectually, thematically and visually. Masonic Mysteries, written by Mitchell and directed by Danny ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ Boyle is an extraordinarily rich story that examines the true nature of evil set against a staging of a masonic opera to create Morse’s most personal story and is amazingly well put together.

      Fox is absolutely the lynchpin of the spin-off and I think Whately has been generous enough to admit that. Don’t be too tough on Whately’s appearance though: he was 36 when the first Morse was screened and he is now 61!

  4. Skywatcher says:

    Hmmmm, I still prefer the LEWIS series overall. MORSE never really grabbed me, and I feel that that LEWIS is more entertaining. The rather zany edge to some of the stories appeals to me far more than the totally serious original. Fair comment about Oxford, but that goes for any crime series. I knew an Oxford student, and she told me that her mother was genuinely worried about her going to study amongst the dreaming spires. All of those murders every week, it couldn’t be safe…..

    Curtis: Do you really think that Whately looks that bad? He is now over 60, after all. You sort of expect him to look about 20 years older than he did in MORSE, and he does. To me he looks no better, but also no worse than you might expect. The worst case of an actor ageing that I can remember is Ian Hendry. Looking at him in what remains of the original AVENGERS telly series you see a personable young man. Thanks to alcoholism, when he died only just over twenty years later he looked like an eighty year old, even though he was only in his early fifties.

    • I am coming to accept that I may very well be on the losing end of the Morse vs Lewis debate as so many people on this forum and elsewhere seem to prefer the spin-off, which doesn’t mean I will go down without a fight!

      The reason I so liked Inspector Morse in its heyday was because it genuinely broke the mould – it was a feature-length series of 2 hour film when this was practically unheard of on British TV (Columbo was the closest equivalent it seems to me in emphasising plot and character but was always a much more accessible and populist show, and I say this as a huge fan), which had strong characters but which took itself seriously though I think it was also witty, clever and wise when it wanted to be. But this was a series that was able to discuss things of importance in an intelligent manner, and so little TV does that – let alone with the added advantage of ingenious plots that require genuine patience and attention be paid by the viewer. Lewis is easier and more fun, I agree – but to me that is precisely why I like ti less. It is less ambitious – which wouldn’t matter if Morse hadn’t succeeded in genuinely broadening the horizons of the TV mystery, Lewis at best can only reinforces them. We’ll be lucky if we get many more detective shows as good as Lewis on UK commercial TV but I wish they would aim higher and stay away from the crowd-pleasing soap elements!

      • curtis evans says:

        I do feel the modern murder mania negatively impacted some of the Lewises, where the plots just were too far-fetched (I’ve only seen the last two seasons). There are too many mass slayings (“Old, Unhappy, Far off Things”; “Wild Justice”; “Falling Darkness”; “Counter Culture Blues”–and I actually greatly enjoyed the last one). The body count in just those four must have approached twenty and in most I don’t believe the murderers were very plausible.

        The Morses generally confined themselves to the limits of possibility–granted that these clever murder plots are inherently unrealistic to some extent. And these complex plots could drive home serious themes. The schemes seemed to have the inevitability of Greek tragedy in “Dead on Time” and “Deadly Slumber” and “Promised Land.” Even the serial killers episodes, “Driven to Distraction” and “Masonic Mysteries” are surprisingly plausible.

        Interestingly, it struck me that on the whole the originally scripted ones are better than the novel adaptations, except for the later ones in the 1990s. Sure, there are some weak ones (“Fat Chance” despite a winsome Zoe Wanamaker or “Twilight of the Gods” despite a superb John Gielgud), but overall a really high level is maintained.

        But I have enjoyed the majority of the Lewises, even when the plots get convoluted and one is left with questions about just who did what exactly. I thought “Counter Culture Blues,” about the aging rock stars, would be unbearable, but it was excellent. I think “The Dead of Winter” was close to best Morse level and maybe “The Gift of Promise.” I’m definitely looking forward to the new season. I hope they keep it going for a while yet, though Lewis is not older than Morse (and John Thaw) when he (they) died!

        • Lewis began very much in the Morse mould with a pilot episode (now retitled ‘Reputations’), co-written by by Russell Lewis, that is built around a pattern based on Hamlet and Oedipus Rex, much like the first Morse TV episode The Dead of Jericho (scripted by Anthony Minghella). The main writer on the show after that was the late Alan Plater, who certainly knew how to construct a solid plot but whose general approach is inherently wry and humorous. I love the four episodes he wrote for Lewis before his early death, but they are very different from the kinds of stories produced by the main Morse writers like Julian Mitchell, Daniel Boyle and Anthony Minghella. I would have to disagree about the adaptations of the novels though – the first three Morse films especially, Jericho, The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn and Service of All the Dead (the latter both adapted by Mitchell) are quite possibly the best of all the Morse episodes with extraordinarily complex plots, deep characterisation and genuine elan in the presentation. And the adaptation of Last Seen Wearing is a wonderful example of how you can remain true to a work and yet completely change the characters, the setting and even change the murderer and yet keep the complexity, keep the approach and actually enrich the overall story.

          • curtis evans says:

            My favorite of the early ones was Jericho (I definitely recall the Oedipus material in that one).

          • Jericho is the first episode and a real classic – and as usual he doesn’t get the girl. The handling of the subplot involving the blackmail scheme is incredibly subtle when you re-watch the scene on the telephone. I actually can’t decide between the first three as I really do think they are superlatively good. NICHOLAS QUINN has the most wonderful verbal clue and all that great dialogue about butter vs margarine (not to mention to amazingly talented Barbara Flynn) while SERVICE FOR ALL THE DEAD is incredibly complicated and has the most extraordinary visual style courtesy of TV auteur Peter Hammond (he did a lot of the later more flamboyant Brett Sherlock Holmes episodes).

  5. curtis evans says:

    I’ll add some more thought on Lewis v. Morse later, but on Kevin Whately, my comparison is between Whately late forties vs. late fifties. I do think he’s aged a lot in those ten years or so. Of course, he used to be very young looking for his age (boyish I would say), so that makes the contrast greater. I recall my shock when Dick Clark actually started to look old!

    But I don’t mind. I’m glad to see an actor his age who hasn’t been worked over extensively with botox! In fact, one thing I liked about Morse was how unglamorous it often was. In American cops shows today, often all the cops look like fashion models. They should be vogueing not shooting. Even Morse’s girlfriends tended not to be super-knockouts. They were attractive women, but not necessarily looking like they just stepped off catwalks. Though the young woman in “Daughters of Cain” which I’m watching now is drop dead gorgeous (but then again she’s a playing an escort).

    • Yes, Whately doesn’t look 36 in Dead of Jericho does he? In Dexter’s books there is a lot more emphasis on comely young ladies and Daughters of Cain, despite the miscasting of Richard Briers, is I think a very good adaptation by Mitchell of the book and is one of the ones that comes closest to capturing that aspect of Dexter’s writing. It’s an aspect of Morse’s character that while creditable it may not be, plausible it probably is, without turning him into a dirty old man in a mac. Liz Hurley is impossibly young and pretty in Last Seen Wearing but although Morse was always beautifully shot, it was rarely glossy (and quite gritty to begin with in fact), which is definitely one of the main selling points for me too.

      • curtis evans says:

        Richard Briers according to imdb was in Death is Now My Neighbour? Were you thinking of that one, or of a different actor? I haven’t seen the last three yet.

        Morse seems to get more romanticized as the series goes along, which probably helps explain his increasing popularity with women audience members! In many of the shows he often has strikingly bad luck with the ladies (if not actually murderers they are somehow implicated in something untoward). His name could have been changed to Morose.

        Of course the contrast between the sensitive, solitary, artistic, egoistical Morse and the self-effacing, happy, relational and “normal” Lewis is beautifully done. I think it was at its most moving so far in Dead on Time, where Lewis really went above and beyond. I think Whately tends to be underappreciated.

        In one of the early Morses, Morse is ogling schoolgirls playing field hockey or something,as I recall! This was from a Dexter book, of course. 😉 Then there’s the other one where much hinges on the notion that an attractive young girl will let herself be picked in his car up by an unattractive old professor with a heart condition and then get so mad when he won’t have it off with her after all that she will storm out of the car in a huff after screaming at him. Am I remembering that scenario correctly? It seemed a bit of a stretch!

        It seems counterintuitive these days that film adaptations would be less sexualized than the books on which they are based, but this does seem to be the case here.

        Daughters of Cain, which went back to Dexter, pushed the idea of a very attractive woman being drawn to a much older man, but there was a strong feminist edge to this one. And Way through the Woods was much the same, exploring a porn ring of involving older men and a much younger woman (this set-up seems almost quaint today, some seventeen years later in the internet age).

        I just didn’t get as attached to the early ones as much. It wasn’t until season four that everything clicked with me.

        The last ones seem like Dexter was working almost in tandem in the filmmakers to wrap up the Morse story. They were doing one a year, each based on a Morse book. Did they know Dexter was planning to kill off Morse, I wonder?

        • As always Curt, you are absolutely right – Briers is in Death is Now My Neighbour, Julian Mitchell’s tenth and final script for Morse and which, like Daughters of Cain, he adapted from Dexter’s novel – apologies for my confusion. The ogling of the schoolgirls is from Last seen Wearing while the car pick-up plot is from Last Bus to Woodstock. The plot is slightly mess daft and a smidgen more plausible than you remember it, but not far off! Both were adapted from Dexter novels for the second series of the show.

          The fourth season is, I quite agree, possibly the best overall – and perhaps not coincidentally it was the first that was not based directly on Dexter’s novels and short stories, some of which were originals written directly for the series and one of which, The Wolvercote Tongue, Dexter would later adapt and expand into one of his novels (The Jewel That Was Ours).

          After the seventh full series, John Thaw said that he did not want to keep making them that way (each episode takes a month to shoot so making a full series could last 5 to 6 months) but would adapt the remaining novels as one-off specials. If it had been up to ITV, I doubt they would have let Dexter kill Morse off (hence the spin-offs). Being able to go out on a high with a definitive final episode was certainly bait for both Thaw and especially Whately, who had said that he didn’t really want to do it anymore and had as a result missed the previous installment (The Wench is Dead). I do love the show dearly – I did a big post about it here, but to my mind there is nothing on UK TV that can touch it really for sustained brilliance (the ultra intense Cracker may be the closest and it went off the boil incredibly fast) – certainly not a whodunit in the traditional style. It didn’t just make the detective story respectable for British telly – it bested everything in site, co-opting some of the best writing, directing and acting talent around – and a killer soundtrack to boot – perfection!

          • curtis evans says:

            I’d been thinking of blogging on Morse, but you seem to be the ultimate authority! Maybe I should do something American….

          • Curt, please blog on Morse! Apart from anything else, I’m an ‘old time’ fan in the sense that I started watching it in 1987 and I’m very tied in with that original experience – would be great to be able to read one of your detailed posts on the show from a more recent perspective – and would love to read what you have to say further on the books and the spin-offs – really hope you can manage it (and apologies in advance if I have trouble posting comments to your site!)

  6. Yvette says:

    I’ll join you in preferring MORSE over its spin-off, Sergio. Though I do like the Inspector Lewis and his quirky partner too. I like the idea of Lewis carrying on. But I admit I haven’t seen many of the shows. I’m trying to play catch-up on Netflix. Nothing can replace, however, the exquisite Morse theme song. Oh, it gives me chills. So hauntingly beautiful.

    I haven’t seen ENDEAVOR yet, but will do so. I didn’t realize it was already available on DVD. Sounds mighty interesting, though it’s hard for me to watch something in which I know the fate of the main character…Know what I mean?

    I thought CASINO ROYALE was terrific. Daniel Craig takes the role of James Bond and makes it his own.

    I too liked the Ricardo Cortez version of THE MALTESE FALCON, though not as much as the Bogart one. Even if Mary Astor mostly ruins the movie for me.

    Great post, Sergio!

    P.S. I simply can’t stand Pierce Brosnan, so I rarely see any movie he happens to be in.

    • Thanks for all the fantastic feedback Yvette. Though, there we were agreeing on everything and then the Brosnan bombshell – you must love Remington Steele at least, surely? Actually my lovely sister-in-law says exactly the same thing about Brosnan so clearly you are not alone! I know what you mean about the later Morse impinging on the earlier – and in fact, one of the most successful aspects of the film, is how it subtly pays tribute to Thaw right at the end of the film – hope you enjoy it when you get the chance to see it (the DVD I was referring to is in the UK – no idea about all the way over there …).


    • curtis evans says:

      Is Endeavor available in the U.S yet? I needed to get a multi-regional DVD player….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s