You know you’re getting older when beloved TV policemen start looking younger. And you know you must be positively ancient when those same policemen start looking older again.
Shaun Evans has been playing the rookie, 1960s version of Inspector Morse for seven years now. And, as the latest run got underway, it’s fair to say things weren’t going well. Following a fatally botched operation at the end of the last series, our hero found himself bumped back down to uniform and reduced to fielding calls about missing horses and stolen snuffboxes in a sleepy rural cop shop. (He’s also acquired a rather extraordinary moustache, though it’s not clear if this was part of his punishment.)
But while his CID colleagues took every opportunity to humiliate him (he wasn’t even allowed through a police cordon in case he went ‘tramping over the scene in his size nines’), fate had other ideas, dropping clues into his lap at every turn and ensuring he could barely leave the house without tripping over a dead body or a piece of smoking gun evidence.
That errant horse? It led him straight to a murdered schoolgirl laid out in a cornfield. The man with the stolen snuffboxes? Turned out he was a child kidnapper. While making his rounds, he also stumbled across the dead girl’s satchel, a second dead body, an incriminating shard of broken L-plate and, for an encore, pulled a briefcase out of a church organ which solved at a stroke a cold case that been haunting his former boss Fred Thursday (Roger Allam) for years.
I can’t help thinking Colin Dexter, the cryptic crossword-setter who created Morse, would have made the old boy work a bit harder, rather than presenting him with most of the answers already filled in. Plus, seven years on, I still struggle to join the dots between Evans’ unassuming, softly spoken sergeant and John Thaw’s crabby Chief Inspector.
Even so, it was hard not to let out a small cheer when our man got one over on his superiors and earned his CID stripes back – even if the universe had done most of the work for him.
Portrait Artist of the Year (Sky Arts)
It’s series 5 of TV’s classiest talent show (Forget your Ashley Banjos and Alesha Dixons, this one’s hosted by Dame Joan Bakewell), in which nine artists are tasked with painting one of three celebrity sitters. Refreshingly gimmick-free, it’s all about the simple pleasure of watching incredible works of art slowly take shape before your eyes. Well, that and seeing if people off the telly really can still and not talk for four hours.
Great British Car Journeys (Channel 4)
It’s nostalgia squared as Peter Davison and Christopher Timothy – stars of 30s-set 70s TV classic All Creatures Great and Small – reunite to explore the golden age of British motoring, pootling about Britain in a vintage Morgan 4/4. Along the way, they hook up with various classic car enthusiasts (all mildly eccentric men of a certain age, naturally) in what adds up to a quietly charming mash-up of Top Gear and Last of the Summer Wine.
Published in Waitrose Weekend, February 14, 2019
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