Saturday, 2 June 2012

Lewis – still fit for duty?

Kevin Whately as Lewis in series finale The Indelible Stain. Pics: ITV
Script developer Charlotte Biermann investigates ITV1's latest series of Lewis…

Last episode of the season, The Indelible Stain, is on ITV1, Wednesday 6 June, 8pm

The sixth series of Lewis returned amid a hiatus; before the first episode had even aired the creator of its forefather, Inspector Morse,  provocatively stated in a Radio Times interview that he did not think Lewis 'can go on much longer', which promptly forced ITV’s hand to retort that it remained 'committed' to the show. So, of course, the question is being asked: Is Lewis’s time coming to an end?

David Soul guest stars in 'The Indelible Stain'
The current series has been inconsistent. After Colin Dexter’s heralded doom, the first episode – The Soul of Genius – with its theme based on Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark, seemed to strike back. With strong, and at times witty, writing that tightened the almost father/son relationship of Lewis and Hathaway and with a delightfully self-conscious Hathaway being awkwardly seduced, it was a joy to watch.

Third episode of Lewis was disappointing
Then came the second, Generation of Vipers, which continued the literary theme with Troilus and Cressida and the (un)romantic theme of our leading men, albeit in a more subtle manner. However the overall story was not quite as tight and did leave a few 'hang on a minute…' questions in its wake.

Sadly, episode three, Fearful Symmetry, while obviously taking its title from Blake’s poem The Tiger, failed to keep ‘the ball up in the air’ so to speak. It was disappointing in that the investigation hinged on a soft toy and failed to fully intertwine all the strands; instead, it lazily gave the perpetrator a mental illness that came out of the blue at last minute.

To use Dexter’s own words it was 'not up to scratch'.


British audiences these days are too sophisticated to be fully satisfied by such one dimensional and frankly, flat writing. Not when recent dramas, the Scandinavian series in particular, are offering such complex and detailed storylines.

Jason Durr as DI Peterson, Kevin Whately as DI Lewis and Laurence Fox as DS  Hathaway
So when episodes such as last Wednesday's Fearful Symmetry are aired, then it is hard to convince those critical of Lewis that he is worth holding on to. Perhaps he should happily retire and make way for new blood. However, clinging to the hope that the next and last episode – The Indelible Stain, starring David Soul – will return the richness of the series' earlier offerings, I do think there is still a place for these more gentle and comfy police procedurals.

Diverse TV audience
TV schedules should be diverse. We don’t always need to see bloody and mutilated cadavers and follow overtly gruesome plots of a human being’s twisted behavior.

Some audiences want to be able to sit back and feel the poignancy of death rather be horrified by human cruelty. Not everything has to challenge or have the zeitgeist, providing there are other such shows around.

Lewis needs strong writing
Ultimately, TV audiences tend to be loyal; look at when Silent Witness tried to kill of one of its leading characters, Harry. Outrage abounded. And remember, Lewis has been threatened before. In 2009 ITV was all set to cancel it but audience demand saw it return.

If Lewis is soon retired it will be because the plots have failed to intrigue and thrill, so strong writing is a must, but for now it would seem the everyman detective is still too fondly appreciated to be relinquished just yet.

• Charlotte Biermann studied acting at drama school, before going behind the scenes to work at the BBC on shows from Crime Watch to the One Show and with Stephen Poliakoff. She subsequently worked at two talent agencies and is now a Film & TV Script Developer