Thursday, March 16, 2023

"Morse" is about failure and solitude

As the final episode of Endeavor has come to British television (and here soon, I hope), a consideration of the popularity of the series:
.... Three series grew out of Colin Dexter’s 13 novels: Inspector Morse (1987-2000); Lewis (2006-2015), in which Morse is a spectral presence, which suits him (he would be a good ghost); and Endeavour, the prequel (2012-23), which ended last week. ....

When John Thaw, who played Morse, drank in Oxford pubs during shooting, people would say: ‘Here, you’re Morse, aren’t you? Mind if I have a drink with you?’ So he hid in the Randolph Bar. It is now the Morse Bar, filled with photographs of Thaw.

People who have not heard of Morse – though it was seen by one billion people – might wonder who he is. ....

There was mention of a police cadet in the last Endeavour, who may sprout another spin-off, but Colin Dexter’s will is clear: there will be no new Morse until the copyright runs out.

Dexter was a teacher all his life. I think that’s why he liked killing teachers: the series overestimates the murder rate in Oxford by 2,600 per cent. He studied classics at Cambridge and lived in north Oxford. He began the first Morse novel, Last Bus to Woodstock, in north Wales in 1972.

Dexter described Morse as:
A sensitive and sometimes strangely vulnerable man; always a bit of a loner by nature; strongly attracted to beautiful women (often the crooks); dedicated to alcohol; and almost always on the verge of giving up nicotine. In politics, ever on the left, feeling himself congenitally incapable of voting for the Tory party; a “high church atheist” (as I called him), yet with a deep love for the Methodist Hymnal, the King James Bible, the church music of Byrd, Tallis, Purcell, etc., the sight of candles, and the smell of incense. Finally, like me, he would have given his hobbies in Who’s Who as reading the poets, crosswords, and Wagner.
Morse didn’t get into Who’s Who. One of the essential elements of his success is his failure. He never finished his degree, and nothing matters more in Oxford. ....
The Morse, Lewis, and Endeavour series can all be found on Amazon Prime Video.

Tanya Gold, "The cult of Morse," The Spectator, March 16, 2023.

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