Monday, September 23, 2013

MUHDUH Most Foul

While we're bonding with our new royal bundle of joy, there's plenty of time to curl up with a cuppa and enjoy a couple of PBS's most recent Masterpiece Mystery offerings: Endeavour, Silk, and the series finale of Inspector Lewis. There's something comforting about shows that follow a predictable pattern of posh British people in fancy dress offing each other. 

If your Angophilia doesn't extend far enough to your wanting to hear the phrase "the Queen's gynecologist" and "ZOMGZ THE ROYAL BABY" repeated several times in succession (HA! SUCCESSION! HA!) on the network newz, strap on your Wellies head over to PBS. Oh, you don't watch PBS? Oh, okay then.

I'm Alan Cumming and this is Masterpiece Mystery. I am also a bit of a wankah.

So, I was really sad about the ending of ITV's Inspector Lewis series. I started watching it on Netflix, then I watched the final season air on PBS. Who knew that Oxford had such a high murder rate? Is there anyone still living in Oxford now? Or is everyone dead? I visited there a few years ago and no one tried to off me. Perhaps I should have posed as a shady Oxbridge don? 

For those of you who don't know, Inspector Lewis is a sequel to the highly popular British MUHDUH mystery show, Inspector Morse. It follows the exploits of widowed Detective Inspector Lewis (Kevin Whately), who was Inspector Morse's partner. After Morse's death, Lewis was partnered with uppity college boy, Detective Sergeant Hathaway (Laurence Fox), and Inspector Lewis has to come to terms with all of his new partner's book learnin'. Hathaway and Lewis, of course, learn to set aside their differences to solve MUHDUHS, and the banter twixt the two gents is actually quite hilarious at times. Also, Lewis TOTES gets to get his flirt on with the lady medical examiner. So, there's that. 

I'm moody, haunted by my past and unconventionally handsome. What else can I do for you?

I have a great deal of affection for Inspector Lewis, and I'm sorry that there won't be any more episodes. However, after seven years, I can totally understand the actors wanting to move on to other projects. Inspector Lewis is available on Netflix streaming and DVD. Netflix doesn't have all of the episodes streaming yet, so you might be in a bit of a pinch if you want to watch later episodes.

Now, with Inspector Lewis off the air, ITV has come up with an interesting PREQUEL to the Inspector Morse series, which follows Morse's adventures as a young constable in the 1960s. 

ITV Exec 1: I know! Let's do Mad Men. But let's kill people!

ITV Exec 2: Oh, simply ripping idea!

ITV Exec 3: Smashing!

The Queen: How droll!

I'm keepin' Her Majesty's Peace, bijez.

Yes, there are only a few episodes for this first series, but it's worth getting into, especially since ITV has renewed the show for a Series 2. I feel like British dramas put a lot more time into making an episode of a show than American productions do, and that's why there tend to be fewer episodes in a season/series. Sometimes, American shows kind of just say, "Good enough" and crank out 20 episodes. The Brits take their time to write, film and edit each show, so the average quality level tends to be higher. And, you know, who else is going to create a crime drama and put everyone in period dress? WHO ELSE, I ASK YOU? No one. No one but the Brits.

No quip here.  I just fucking love the queen.

Endeavour is set in the 1960s, and while Mad Men comparisons are somewhat valid, it actually reminds me more of the now-defunct late-1950s news drama, The Hour. It even features the same wormy character actor as the leads' boss. What else could you ask for? An unconventionally handsome leading man? Yes, I'll take one of those. Check, please! 

The show begins with Endeavour Morse as young Constable Morse (Shaun Evans), forced to work his way up through the ranks of his local precinct, where he is not taken seriously, even after he solves, like, three murders in a row. There's a jealous detective in the precinct who is always throwing all kinds of shade at Morse. The police chief may or may not have been bought off. Really, his only ally is his ostensible partner, DI Fred Thursday (Roger Allam). 

Am I as fond of Endeavour as I am of Inspector Lewis? No, not as yet. However, it does have the same buddy cop drama vibe that Inspector Lewis has, with crotchety, hardened detective, Thursday somewhat suspicious of his college-educated young partner. Since everything in England is class-based, Thursday and Morse have the same dynamic as the working-class Lewis and the Cambridge-educated Hathaway. They do manage to put that aside and do things like solve murders and stuff. Excuse me. MUHDUHS. Seriously, when will the British learn to say "r"? The episodes are not available to watch online, but they are available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

We're lucky enough here stateside to be able to watch both BBC and ITV dramas on PBS, and I guess everyone in the U.S. assumes everything British is from the BBC, anyway, but it's pretty convenient to be able to watch all of this stuff on one channel. Rock on, Kermit.

Elmo hug Kermit. Elmo contract salmonella from frog.

But I digress. The next delightful offering, which is actually courtesy of the BBC, is Silk. Well, butter my crumpet. It's about a LADY BARRISTAH. 

If you've seen any of Law & Order UK or know enough about British people to find them adorable, charming and quaint, you will already be aware that the attorneys wear wigs during their more important court appearances. Seriously, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. How could you not be down with these peeps?


Silk, like many legal dramas, focuses on a law firm (or, as it's known in the UK, chambers). Martha Costello is a sassy blond lady attorney who kicks all kinds of ass. Her ultimate goal -- aside from straightening up pupil barrister and adorable screw-up, Nick Slade; convincing novice barrister, Naimh* Cranitch, that she DEFO SHOULD NOT FUCK office manslut/sleazebag Clive Reader; skirting around scheming fellow attorney, Kate Brockman; and managing an unexpected pregnancy -- is to "take silk." "Taking silk," as Alan Cumming condescendingly explains to the ignorant Americans, is the process whereby British attorneys earn the rank of Queen's Counsel. You can watch Silk online until October 8. 

"In the criminal justice system..." Wait...

Oh, yeah, and also Martha was being stalked by a creepy former client.

It's good to see a legal drama on the idiot box that actually has a female lead. Because, after all, it is 2013 and rah rah votes for women.


Martha is portrayed with aplomb by Maxine Peake. She's a relatable character because, all lawyer jokes aside, you get the sense that she really is a good person, and it does bother her conscience that, for the sake of her career, she has to defend some scumbags who are likely guilty of the crimes they are accused of committing. One particular tough moment for Martha was when she was put in the position of defending a man accused of rape, because according to her own personal convictions, rape victims are the ones who end up being put on trial. Martha's superiors convinced her that she need to have a rape case on her dossier for her silk application, and she assented. Although the prosecuting attorney told the victim that Martha would go easy on her because "her heart wasn't in it," Martha crucified this woman on the stand and brought her to tears. As horrible as it made her feel, Martha knew that this was the kind of game she would have to play to get ahead in the male-dominated world of the British legal system. 

More British intrigue headed your way in a chaise-and-four. There's a new series of Foyle's War and PBS is also airing a new murder mystery drama called The Bletchley Circle. 

*It's pronounced "Nave." Jeez, Britain. Learn English, will you?


Maggie Cats said...

These things are all relevant to my interest.

Also, my Mom loooooooves Foyle's War and Inspector Lewis. You guys should totally chat.

Arsenic Pie said...

Your mom sounds stellar. Foyle's War is great. I'm surprised she hasn't forced it upon you as of yet. I haven't seen the whole series, yet. It's on Netflix and I've been watching it here and there so it lasts me a long time. I am out of Inspector Lewis, but it is so good and Laurence Fox is so sexy. :D