CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews the weekend’s TV: Morse exits the stage, leaving the biggest mystery unsolved
Hughie Green: The Rise And Fall Of Mr Saturday Night (Channel 5)
Morse and Thursday were in philosophical mood when they agreed, over a pint, on an old adage: ‘Not every question gets an answer.’
But the unanswered questions left a flavour of unfinished business as Endeavour (ITV1) came to a close, with cryptic hints of alternative endings. The central mystery was simply left unsolved. Throughout 36 episodes of this sublime series since 2013, young Morse (Shaun Evans) has been steered, scolded and mentored by his guv’nor, DCI Fred Thursday (Roger Allam).
Yet in all the classic episodes of Inspector Morse with John Thaw in the 1980s and 1990s, the serial that set the template for so much crime drama, Thursday is never mentioned. Nor is his daughter Joan (Sara Vickers), the great unrequited love of Morse’s life.
Morse (Shaun Evans) was preoccupied for the first hour, pursuing a serial killer who placed death notices for his victims in the papers before murdering them
What tragedy, what feud, what shattering secret could drive Morse and Thursday apart for ever? Well, there wasn’t one. Writer Russell Lewis teased us that death was hovering — the old man had a health scare, and survived a couple of murderous attacks with gun and knife.
He even quoted Macaulay: ‘How can man die better than facing fearful odds?’ But die he didn’t. At the last, he went quietly — a fair cop.
We had glimpses of how different things could be at Joan’s wedding to DS Jim Strange (Sean Rigby). On the dance floor, Morse confessed his love for her and, in her bridal gown, she flung herself into his arms. But it was only a daydream, the prelude to a succession of partings as characters bowed out.
Morse was preoccupied for the first hour, pursuing a serial killer who placed death notices for his victims in the papers before murdering them. Each announcement included a motto from the classics. The killer quoted more Latin than Boris Johnson on the hustings.
Crossword allusions abounded. ‘Sooner or later,’ quipped the pathologist Dr DeBryn (James Bradshaw), ‘we all end up six down and two across’ . . . a reference to the depth of a grave. Morse mused over the kind of clue that creator Colin Dexter adored: ‘Mother takes murderer back, idiot.’ It’s six letters. Have a go at it yourself.
Throughout 36 episodes of this sublime series since 2013, young Morse (Shaun Evans) has been steered, scolded and mentored by his guv’nor, DCI Fred Thursday (Roger Allam)
Dexter died in 2017 but seemed to play a cameo role at the very end, as Morse handed him a book and said, ‘That’s it.’ Was that CGI wizardry or a lookalike? John Thaw made a fleeting appearance too, his eyes narrowing in the driving mirror as his famous red Jag flashed by.
And what of Sergeant Lewis, played by Kevin Whately in the original show? His character never arrived, though Morse did mention a new recruit at the police training college in Newcastle. He was the cousin of a murder victim, whose name was… Lewis. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Morse has left the stage but will never be forgotten — unlike Hughie Green, once the country’s best-known TV presenter, whose career was traced in The Rise And Fall Of Mr Saturday Night (Ch5). His talent contest Opportunity Knocks launched countless names including Little and Large, Bonnie Langford and Su Pollard.
This 90-minute portrait relied too much on slow-motion reconstructions, which sometimes got in the way of the unsentimental stories of those who knew him
This 90-minute portrait relied too much on slow-motion reconstructions, which sometimes got in the way of the unsentimental stories of those who knew him.
Green had a ‘slimy’ side to him, said Bonnie. He was also a megalomaniac, with bizarre political ambitions. No wonder we prefer to forget him — though his catchphrases live on. ‘I mean that most sincerely, folks, I really do.’
And the solution to that crossword clue? Well, ‘mother’ is Ma. The first murderer was Cain, and Cain backwards is ‘niac’. The whole word means a sort of ‘idiot’ — it’s ‘Ma-niac’. Some questions do get answers.
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