Ah, Lewis. It's easy to mock TV’s least excitable detective show, with its strangely comforting blend of brutal murders and lovely buildings:  violent death reinvented as screen sedative. Even its stars, Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox, have been talking up its return with all the enthusiasm of a trip to the out-of-hours dentist.

Having watched this series opener, however, I'm not sure I entirely buy that. Yes, it's all deeply implausible and almost certainly a lot more baroque than your average CID shift. But would we really trade it for the pre-Morse era of punch-ups and people driving Ford Capris through piles of cardboard boxes?

Exit Wounds boasts a typically byzantine plot involving a dead neurosurgeon, his brain-damaged former patient, some angry tenant farmers, a bunch of animal rights activists and Kara Tointon as a grieving – or is she? – widow. It’s the sort of interwoven web of intrigue where everyone knows everyone else – even the farmer has a part-time job at the hospital.

Newly promoted DI Hathaway (Fox) is struggling to delegate to his sergeant, played by Angela Griffin, while former boss Lewis (Whately) is proving equally useless at retirement and, specifically, building a canoe. When Hathaway is faced with his first stiff, the chief super (Rebecca Front) decides it’s time to call Lewis back in. ‘I’m going to the hardware store to get some waterproof glue,’ he protests. ‘Alternatively,’ she says, ‘you can figure out why a neurosurgeon has a bullet in his head.’ Something tells me that canoe’s not going to be finished anytime soon.

Controversially, recent Lewis films have been cleaved in two like an axe through an Oxford don’s skull, so we don’t yet know whodunit. But I’m intrigued enough to tune in and find out. As solid and well-built as the Bodleian Library, Lewis is proof that middlebrow needn’t be a dirty word.

Kevin Whately – who at 63 is older than John Thaw when he died – has now made 30 Lewis films. He says he’ll only do three more, because it wouldn’t be right for the spin-off to outlast the original show. It’s the sort of quiet, common decency you’d expect from Lewis himself. Trust me – you’ll miss him when he’s gone.

TV extra:


Seven Days with… Tamara Ecclestone

Helping launch new ‘lifestyle’ channel ITVBe (yes, really), Seven Days With… promises the inside skinny on the nation’s ‘best-loved couples’. First up, it’s F1 heiress Tamara Ecclestone and her husband, Jay someone. In this, we learn that Tamara doesn’t know the name for toast in its un-toasted state, while Jay is the sort of bloke who squeezes his wife’s breast while making a comedy honking sound. But hey, that’s why we love ’em, right?


Doctor Who

This week, Doctor Who enlisted the help of Frank Skinner to fight an Egyptian Mummy on board the Orient Express. In space. So I hope you weren’t expecting me to talk about The Apprentice instead. Peter Capaldi is shaping up as a fine Doctor, but this year’s series really belongs to Jenna Coleman who, as Clara, is mounting a serious challenge to Billie Piper and Elisabeth Sladen as the Time Lord’s best fellow traveller.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, October 16, 2014

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