I’ve tried. I really have. I’ve watched all of the current series of Lewis. There’s much to recommend it – a fine cast, the warm architecture of Oxford, some witty dialogue (at times), and the legacy of Inspector Morse always lurking in the background in a faintly comforting way. There is one problem though, and it’s a big one: the plots are ludicrous!
I know it’s Sunday night drama, and that means nice scenery and a reassuring murder or two, but each episode seems to have an average of four deaths, and every time the action centres on another college. Don’t they have any crime in Oxford that isn’t university related? Imagine the media coverage that would follow the events of any typical week in the life of Lewis, let alone the twenty odd (and I mean odd) murders per series. Yet they seem to operate without any press coverage whatsoever, shrugging off another set of bizarre and disturbing crimes with a cheery pint and a matey quip.
I do quite like Lewis (Kevin Whately), and Sergeant Hathaway (Laurence Fox) is an interesting character whose police gimmick (they always have a gimmick) is that he’s clever, having studied theology at Cambridge. The relationship between the two is affectionate, and one of the strengths of the series. I do wonder, though, how they always manage to solve these crimes completely on their own. In other police dramas, there are teams of detectives working on each case, with technical support, a geeky computer whizz kid, and a shouty superior officer. None of that in Oxford. You get Lewis and Hathaway, Lewis’ love interest, the pleasant pathologist Dr Hobson (Clare Holman), and the excellent Rebecca Front as Lewis’ boss (they never seem to reveal her rank) but who seems to run the department with the air of a benign head of sixth form – never any shouting, swearing or venturing more than five feet from her office.
Much of Lewis’ detective work seems to revolve around asking suspects whether they committed the crime. Eventually, he wears them down until all is revealed. This normally involves a dark secret from the past (this weeks’s bizarre IRA terrorist turned Oxford Don scenario is a case in point) coupled with someone seeking revenge, betrayed only by the occasional evil look at the denoument (the latest evil look made me laugh out loud).
Why people suddenly seem able to morph from reasonable academic to psychotic serial killer is never really explained. Either that, or I drift off half way through and literally lose the plot.
Why is it also, in TV dramas, particularly in Lewis, that when the police turn up to interview a suspect, said suspect never, ever stops what they’re doing. This week, Cherie Lunghi as an ex-head of MI5 was fiddling around with a leaf blower. Lewis struggles on trying to enquire where they were on the night of the crime etc, while they carry on regardless, looking increasingly bored before saying;“now if you don’t mind inspector, I really must blow these leaves round a bit/paint my nails/ empty the dishwasher.” If I was being questioned following a colleague’s violent death, I’d bloody pay attention! What is wrong with these people?
So, my suggestions to Lewis for sorting things out are as follows:
- Only one murder per episode please, and certainly no more than two. The rule is, that the number of murders per episode is in inverse proportion to the quality and credibility of the programme (need I say “Midsomer Murders”)
- Try a plot, just once, that isn’t centered on the university. There must be other life (and death) in Oxford.
- Don’t let suspects fiddle around with menial tasks while they’re being questioned. Tell them to pay attention, or drag the buggers down the nick, sharpish.
- Get some help. You can’t do it all on your own – there must be a spare detective constable somewhere.
- Never flirt with an attractive female academic (I cite as an example, the lovely Lucy Liemann from a couple of weeks ago). No matter how normal and attractive they seem, THEY WILL ALWAYS BE THE MURDERER. At the first hint of a stirring in your loins, arrest them and save us the bother of trying to stay awake for another hour.
Posted by Our Man in the South