by Kathleen Costa
PBS is an easy, free way to see some favorite and popular U.K. mysteries and police procedural with access to Masterpiece Mystery on KVIE and KVIE2 (Sacramento) and KQED (San Francisco). Every year Endeavour shows up, but with infrequent reruns the rest of the year. Father Brown is a regular with weekly reruns from the current and some of the previous seasons. I also make regular weekly visits to watch favorites like Vera, Death in Paradise, Prime Suspect, Grantchester, Morse, Lewis, Midsomer Murders, The Dr. Blake Mysteries and more although not the full series and not all the time. However, even with issues of regularity, variety, and completeness, PBS is a good way for many to enjoy these popular favorites.
Endeavour is Back for Season Seven!
The team has returned. After a need for a complete overhaul of the Thames Valley constabulary due to multiple murders, bad cops, and complicit local government, Chief Superintendent Reginald Bright is reinstated. He needed a full investigative team, so DCI Fred Thursday? Yes, sir. DS Jim Strange? Yes, sir. DS Endeavour Morse? He pauses…
Happy New Year! It’s 1970! Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) has taken an long overdue vacation. He travels to Italy where he meets Violetta (Stephanie Leonidas), a gorgeous woman who shares his love of opera. They engage in an intimate relationship. While Endeavour is enjoying his Italian vacation, DCI Thursday (Roger Allam) sadly is introduced to the first murder of the new year arriving at the scene of a young woman on the towpath. Endeavour returns and begins working on other cases, but it’s four months later, and the towpath murder has no resolution. Chief Super Bright (Anton Lesser) asks Endeavour to give the evidence a second look. This begins a professional conflict between Endeavour and Thursday, which then turns personal. Multiple murders. Conflicting theories. Colleagues mistrust. Personal relationships become very problematic.
Ep. 1 Oracle January 1970. The towpath has become unsafe, the victim’s boyfriend has an alibi, and the detectives are finding it difficult to manage their competing theories. A young woman steps forward with information about the murder. A witness? Of sorts. She claims to have had visions of the murder, feeling and tasting the killer. The investigation expands to a scientific group researching ESP, but it turns more complicated with another murder. Endeavour runs into an old classmate Ludo (Ryan Gage—The Hobbit), one of which he doesn’t have a clear recollection, which leads to a shocking discovery of a connection to his Italian tryst.
ICYMI: This episode is directed by Shaun Evans. He also drives a black jaguar. I’m waiting to find how the red and black jaguar enters the iconic symbols for Morse.
Ep. 2 Raga June 1970. Despite the evidence and an unrelated murder, Thursday refuses to close the “Towpath Murder” case often patrolling the area at night. Yet racial unrest and a political cry of “Britain for the British” cause problems for the constabulary with the murder of an Indian man delivering food. Endeavor is approached by the reporter/editor and friend Dorothea Frazil (Abigail Thaw) who is following a series of incidents labeled “Death by Misadventure,” but Thursday disputes Endeavour’s premise they are not accidents. Endeavour’s relationship with Violetta becomes very complex.
ICYMI: Do you recognize Jason Merrells (Sir Charles from Agatha Raisin) and Pal Aron (The Royal Today; About Today)? Do you recognize the name “Thaw”? Abigail Thaw is the daughter of the iconic Morse actor, John Thaw.
Ep. 3 Zenana More murders occur on the towpath, and a premature arrest splinters the relationship between Endeavour and Thursday with public feuds, condemnations, and suggestions Endeavor move on…somewhere else. The fight to admit men to Lady Matilda, an all-women’s College at Oxford, is overshadowed by one of the students found dead on the towpath throwing Thursday’s theory and recent arrest of a suspect out the window; back to square one. Two more “Deaths by Misfortune,” one hitting close to the Thames Valley team, leads Endeavour to go against orders, take a closer look at the files, and solicit help from DS Jim Strange (Sean Rigby) who agrees connections are not outliers and supports Endeavour’s premise. Endeavour’s relationship with Violetta and Luda becomes toxic and reveals a more sinister motivation.
ICYMI: Fascinating references to women at Oxford University. Women were allowed to study in the 1870s, but only in 1920 were they full members and allowed to earn degrees. Today due to Gender Equality only three colleges (Cambridge) are women-only.
Endeavour Rivals the Original!
Endeavour is a prequel to the iconic television drama Morse (1987-2000). It first aired in the U.S. in 2013, and although I personally worried it would not stand up to the original, the main actors, supporting cast, and stories set in the late 60s and 70s have made this show an all-time favorite. Endeavour focuses on Morse, first as a young constable then detective sergeant under the tutelage of DI Thursday, offering insights into Morse himself: his skill, his arrogance, his personality, and his relationships. This seventh series had only three episodes, however each was just over 100 minutes, and although some closure occurred in each episode, the main investigations build to a perilous reveal and just desserts in episode three. The 70s are well illustrated with fashions and hairstyles along with sexism, racism, and class differences. Reports confirm season eight will air in 2021!
It’s 1953 and life goes on in Kembleford! Father Brown (Mark Williams) again ingratiates himself into more mayhem and murder causing conflict with the exasperated Inspector Mallory (Jack Deam), Mrs. McCarthy (Sorcha Cusack) churns out a disapproving manner along with her famous strawberry scones, Penelope “Bunty” Windermere (Emer Kenny) is always up for a little bit of mayhem herself, and Sergeant Goodfellow (John Burton) tryies to make sure the Inspector doesn’t embarrass himself too much. Father Brown is an all-time favorite, and Mark Williams is the perfect image for the iconic amateur detective in a cassock.
Whether it’s books or movies or television shows, I am fascinated by even the smallest detail, fact, or tidbit, unique setting, or seeing an actor I recognize from another show. Along with a brief synopsis, here are just a few fun discoveries…In case you missed it.
Ep. 1 The Celestial Choir The big three-county choir competition pits the Kembleford Choristers, whose last year’s participation was dismal, against the odds, sabotage, and unfriendly competition. ICYMI: Lady Felicia (Nancy Carroll) is back in rare melodic form subbing for one choir member who comes up ill.
Ep. 2 The Queen Bee Murder, yes, Bunty is set to kill the queen…the queen bee, but the queen beekeeper is the one who falls. ICYMI: Fascinating bee lore: the queen laying up to 2000 eggs a day, the hive takes care of a tired queen, and spearmint-scented smoke subdues bee activity.
Ep. 3 The Scales of Justice “Guilty, my Lord!” Bunty is arrested with blood on her party dress…murder? ICYMI: Whether 50s or Gatsby-inspired party goers, I love the fashions, hats, feathers, and sparkly headbands. Costume design can itself be key to the style of any production.
Ep. 4 The Wisdom of the Fool It’s a Festival of Mirth, and Mr. Feste has his eye on Mrs. M., but he has a murderous secret. ICYMI: Mrs. M. always wears a hat. I love her red and white straw hat. I miss the days when wearing proper hats were the norm…matching shoes and handbags, too.
Ep. 5 The Folly of Jephthah Monsieur Hercule Flambeau has returned seeking Father Brown’s assistance in catching a thief of religious antiquities…How ironic coming from a notorious thief himself! Bested by one better! ICYMI: I love language, so “Everything will be ‘tickety-boo’” is my new go-to phrase.
Ep. 6 The Numbers of the Beast Sisters! Mrs. M.’s sister shows up and is set on using a soothsayers numbers to win a Bingo jackpot, but others want to win the jackpot, too. ICYMI: The sister is Sorcha Cusak’s real sister Niamh Cusack.
Ep. 7 The River Corrupted Sydney needs Father Brown’s help. His girlfriend’s father is accused of murder. ICYMI: Heee’s back! It’s great to have Sid Carter (Alex Price) returned. Oh, missed him!
Ep. 8 The Curse of the Aesthetic An artist’s work honoring his lost muse is damaged, brother and sister are in conflict, and the nanny is dead. ICYMI: despite Father Brown’s bike transport, I love the cars, and Bunty’s red Sunbeam-Talbot 90 Drophead Coupé is marvelous!
Ep. 9 The Fall of the House of St. Gardner Fashion show. Gossip columnists. Murder. Of course, egos and secrets are always fashionable. ICYMI: The village of Kembleford is the epitome of the Cotswolds with its stone cottages, gardens, and St. Mary’s church. It’s actually Blockley in Gloucestershire.
Ep. 10 The Tower of Lost Souls Case closed, but eight years later the new suspicious death raises uncomfortable questions. ICYMI: They’re back! Chief Inspector Valentine (Hugo Speer; season 1-2) invites Father Brown into the investigation…Assistant? “I can live with that.” Oh, no, Chief Inspector Sullivan (Tom Chambers; season 2-3) shows up for an odd reunion. Past issues are “water under the bridge.”
I love Father Brown with Mark Williams (aka Mr. Weasley) at the helm. His soft, introspective manner sprinkled with true Christian charity and forgiveness makes him an endearing figure. Most people trust and respect his critical thinking skill and ability to see patterns and connections, unlike the police who are too often quick to focus their accusatory finger and handcuffs on the first suspect. Father Brown can always count on Bunty for extra help or a way to distract the police along with tea and scones and a disapproving comment from Mrs. M., but it’s his faith in human nature that leads to a confession and justice.
The series is adapted from English novelist G.K. Chesterton’s creation. Father Brown, a fictional Roman Catholic priest, is the main character in fifty-three short stories written between 1910-1936, and although the television series is set after WWII, Father Brown’s techniques, intuition, understanding of human nature, and conflicts with law enforcement are the same. There are several copies of a complete set of the Father Brown short stories on Amazon, but this eBook copy is FREE: Father Brown Complete Collection by G.K. Chesterton.
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