Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Lewis series 6 with Kevin Whately PREVIEW

Back on the case – Kevin Whately as Lewis. Pics: ITV
Rating: ★★★½

ITV1: starts Wednesday, 16 May, 8pm

Story: Botanist Liv Nash accidentally digs up the body of recently buried English Professor Murray Hawes. Lewis and Hathaway have to discover how a man fixated upon 'solving' the riddle of Lewis Carroll's 'The Hunting of the Snark' ended up in a shallow grave.  Was his obsession dangerous enough to get him killed?

Can anyone get hugely excited about the sixth series of Lewis?

It might seem ill-mannered to be rude about a venerable TV institution, but – let's face it – we all know how it's going to go.

It will start with dreaming spires and lush music. There'll be a corpse, and Lewis and Hathaway will appear at the crime scene. Lewis will dance round that blonde pathologist, but nothing will happen romantically, while Hathaway will show off his Latin and at some point the two lonely detectives will have a pint at a nice pub. The murderer will be apprehended from a line-up of snooty cleverdicks and local oddballs at the end of two hours.

Having a laugh down the pub – Hathaway and Lewis
Would-be Miss Marple
And that's exactly what happens in the first of the four latest mysteries – 'The Soul of Genius'. Lush music over and we're at the crime scene, a botanist having found a body buried in the woods. 'Male adult, must have been in there a couple of weeks,' Dr Laura Hobson says.

The suspects include the dead man's intellectual snob of a brother, the Reverend Dr Conor Hawes (a dead ringer for The Bride of Frankenstein's Dr Pretorius), played by Alex Jennings, and local 'gentleman scientist' Dr Alex Falconer, aka James Fleet.

Then there's unstable Professor Wright – actress Matilda Ziegler – and interfering would-be Miss Marple, Michelle Marber, played by Celia Imrie, who switches from eccentric to tragic beautifully.

Kevin Whately's 26th year as Lewis
It's all very polished and as comfy as an old cardigan. Lewis looks great and there are good performances, intriguing twists of character and tender scenes – particularly when Lewis bonds with Mrs Marber over their mutual grief (his departed wife and her son).

Kevin Whately and Celia Imrie
So, why am I not aquiver with anticipation for the new series?

When Showtime (Homeland), AMC (Breaking Bad) and HBO (Boardwalk Empire) in the States, along with the Danish and Swedish networks (The Killing, The Bridge) – damnit, even Israeli TV looks worth a peek at the moment (Prisoners of War) – when all these are all producing such riveting and original series, it's hard to get worked up about Kevin Whately's 26th year playing Lewis (if you include the Morse years).

Let's have a crime series that's daring
OK, a lot of people love Lewis (a hefty 6.3 million watched series 5), and it sells everywhere from Russia to the Middle East. Despite this, Colin Dexter, the creator of Lewis's guvnor Inspector Morse who still has input with the spin-off, caused a rumpus in this week's Radio Times by saying, 'They'll probably do one more series.'

This prompted ITV to say it is 'committed to Lewis' and series 7 goes into production next month. But even if Lewis did retire, there is a new series of Endeavour for fans to look forward to, but good luck to these staples, so long as there is an audience for them.

But against what to me is the homegrown Mogadon of same old, same old – Midsomer Murders, Silent Witness, Lewis, New Tricks – it would be deliriously intoxicating to see ITV and the Beeb sometime soon stepping out of the comfort zone of the past hits and formats to produce a crime drama that is an intelligent, ballsy, 10- or 20-part epic.

Cast: Kevin Whately DI Robert Lewis, Laurence Fox DS James Hathaway, Clare Holman Dr Laura Hobson, Rebecca Front Ch Supt Innocent, Oliver Johnstone Vincent Vega/Simon Dawkins, Daisy May Mia Wallace/Isobel Strong, Nadine Lewington Liv Nash, Paul Jerricho Mr Atkins, Alex Jennings Rev Conor Hawes, Celia Imrie Michelle Marber, Matilda Ziegler Helena Wright, Richard Durden John Gracey, James Fleet Dr Alex Falconer, Lotte Rice Kirsty, Annabel Mullion Verity Falconer