I'd previously rated Series 1 of FOYLE'S WAR at four stars. I'm happy to report, after finishing the Series 2 discs, that the ongoing British telly miniseries has graduated to five stars. It's superb, and I'm desolate that I must wait until 2005 for the release of Series 3 that's airing now in the UK. (Of course, if I move to England ... Nah, the wife would never go for it.)
Michael Kitchen is Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle, who's been ordered to remain at his post as homicide investigator for Hastings and its environs; he'd much rather be doing his bit for King and Empire fighting the Nazis across the Channel. Indeed, his son Andrew (Julian Ovenden) is a flying officer with the RAF. The two other series regulars are Samantha "Sam" Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks), the army's Auxiliary Territorial Service enlistee assigned as his driver, and Paul Milner (Anthony Howell), Foyle's assistant inspector returned to home front duty after being wounded during the disastrous British invasion of Norway.
The delight to be found in the four episodes of Series 2 is the underlying complexity of each plot, the tip of which is a murder being investigated by Foyle and Milner. Yet, even as the layers of the onion are peeled away, the viewer is still surprised at the intricacy of the solution, most of which is unraveled in the depths of Foyle's mind and revealed to the audience at the end, and which has ramifications that ripple far beyond the simple presence of a local corpse.
As in Series 1, the storylines of 2 encompass so much more than a tawdry homicide or two: homosexuality in the RAF, collaboration between British Big Business and the Nazis, black market commerce in luxury food and petrol, and skullduggery by Franklin Roosevelt's personal emissary sent to negotiate the Lend Lease.
My personal favorite episode is number four, "Funk Hole", wherein Foyle is relieved of his duties after being reported as having expressed seditious and defeatist statements while cowering in a London air raid shelter during a Luftwaffe bombing attack. The labyrinthine explanation for that was totally unexpected. Moreover, it looks like Sam and Andrew are to be an "item" - surely to be continued in Series 3. Indeed, at one point when Sam accompanies Andrew to a showing of "Gone With the Wind", we see her out of uniform, dressed in civvies, and with a smashing hairdo. Blimey, what a bird!
FOYLE'S WAR is sumptuously fleshed out with period costumes, automobiles, hairstyles, and commercial brand names. This is first class, period entertainment. Would that American TV was so good.
on July 24, 2004
I awaited Series 2 on pins and needles, and putting it mildly I was not disappointed. What began as a well-conceived, complex war/mystery/drama series has evolved into a masterpiece. You could search the entire history of the Academy Awards and never find more gripping performances or solid screenwriting. And with Masterpiece Theater (Series 1) and now Mystery!, DCS Foyle is poised to become almost as popular in the US as he is in his native Britain.
Each episode is brilliantly written, with many plots and sub-plots that end up tying together as expertly as a Celtic Maze. Although in three cases out of four the identity of the murderer is not difficult to guess (and one is blatantly obvious), the fun, as always, is trying to unravel why.
On top of top-notch mystery plots, you have the moral complexity of a world at war, when right and wrong are not so easily catagorized into neat little boxes. DCS Foyle, with all his moral uprightness, finds himself in each episode faced with dilemmas that - thank God - most of us will never face. And he faces them with integrity and equanimity that is almost non-existent in today's world. Kudos to Anthony Horowitz.
Fifty Ships is one of the two best episodes in the lot, primarily due to a magnificent performance by guest actor Henry Goodman. You simply can't take your eyes off him, and I have never seen a more convincing American performance from a British actor. He absoluately nailed that Chicago accent, when most Americans aren't even aware that there is one. To call this episode anti-American is simply foolishness. It is a scrupulously accurate PERIOD drama, told from an exclusively English perspective. Yes, the American in this episode is characterized as brutish, brash, and evil, but why not? The worst villians of this series are English; just watch the episode War Games if you want proof. To imagine that Mr. Horowitz had any kind of anti-American agenda is practically libelous.
Fans of Sam (and who isn't?) will especially enjoy Among the Few, in which she gets to prove her mettle by going undercover at a fuel depot to spy out the criminals who are stealing fuel. Foyle's son Andrew loses a bit of his paragon-like perfection, which is to the series' credit. The resolution is a little disappointing, but the rest more than makes up for it.
War Games is perhaps the most morally complex episode of the lot, and although it is not hard to guess whodunit, working out who's a good guy and who's a bad guy and why makes this one the most thought-provoking. Stellar performance by Alan Howard.
The Funk Hole is my favorite episode of Series 2, and the best mystery of the four. Another stellar performance by Nicholas Farrell.
The acting (Michael Kitchen defies superlatives), score, direction, and stunning scenery are magnificent - worthy of anything that is being made for the big or small screen on either side of the Atlantic.
The four regulars - Foyle, Milner, Sam, and Andrew - are perfectly consistent, and evolving, as people do in life. Milner especially is coming into his own after a reluctant start, and becoming a first-rate detective. If there are some unresolved issues between him and his wife, it is not a flaw in the series - merely a promise that more is to come. And a blossoming friendship between Andrew and Sam will be interesting (to say the least) to follow. Series 3 cannot come soon enough!
The DVDs are superb quality, crystal-clear pictures and 16:9 compatible. An interview with Anthony Howell (Milner) and Honeysuckle Weeks (Sam) is entertaining fluff, and the brief production notes about each episode are truly interesting.
It doesn't get any better than this.
Contraband smuggling, rationing gas and food, theft of rations in short supply, hiding out in a country club settings to avoid the brunt of the air raids in London, sabotage, spying, revenge, desertion from the front, murder, suicide, a son in `harms way', Detective Superintendent Foyle faces it all in this second set of four stories from the FOYLE'S WAR series starring Michael Kitchen. The first set of stories was so fabulous I bought the second set sight unseen before Masterpiece Theater presented them on it's regular Sunday night program and I'd do it again. My hope is that there will be third and fourth sets in the series, which seems feasible as the war year is 1940 in film #4, and because, excepting the PRIME SUSPECT series with Jane Tennyson, these are the best mysteries to come along in a while. If the Corporation for Public Broadcasting had been marketing works like these from the gitgo, perhaps we would have a regular Mystery Theater series instead of the hit or miss proposition we have now. I hate it when organizations such as A&E get credit for the fine work the BBC-PBS partnership produced over the years, though A&E has managed to produce a few shows of it's own and get others onto DVD. BBC may go it alone (but like A&E with far too many commercials, hint, hint). Guess there are still folks out there who don't realize how these "non-commercial" broadcast stations are funded.
You may discover terrible facts watching this series. These days, we Americans and British wage war without personal sacrifice (gasoline rationing? What's that?) Those under 50 can't remember what sacrifice was like in the 1940s. For example, how many thousands if not millions of people died in the London blitz? Do you know millions of dogs and cats were "put down" because there was not enough food for humans let alone pets? The authorities sprayed horse meat not fit for human consumption green, so that folks would not think you were feeding your dog human food.
I love this series. This may be war, but in between the horrible scenes, lie shots so wonderful and realistic of a bygone world I frequently wish I could transport myself into -- world that existed in Britain before Hitler blew it all to bits.
on July 6, 2004
Previous followers will again be captivated by the new adventures of DSC Foyle with his loyal driver Sam Stewart, and faithful sergent Paul Milner. Fans of Foyle's War will be well rewarded for the long awaited continuation of the ITV murder mystery series. (Thank God I already bought my set on ebay two weeks ago) The series again is set against the sleepy town of Hastings in the beginining of WW II and retains the rustic charm and suspense that made the first series a sucess! These four episodes are from a slightly more personal perspective at the lives of the characters while supporting the main plots. The plots are highly orginal and still keep you guessing till the end. A must have for anyone who loves good drama! Just a Note: Series 3 of the series wrapped up filming at the end of June 2004. It will be aired sometime in the autumn reportedly in October or November 2004. This is a series that can never cease to entertin and keep you on the edge of your seat!
on November 15, 2004
I first saw 2 episodes of Foyle's War, Set 1, while travelling in the UK. I became a fan in almost no time at all. In this second series, everything continues in full force with little apparent "sophmore slump". All four episodes of this series provide us with intelligent characters whom we can care about, plots that lay out mysteries that are worth pondering over, and a perspective on the history of Britain during the Second World War. Of the four episodes in this series, Fifty Ships and War Games, stand out for the importance of the issues they raise and the quality of their scripts. Fifty Ships mixes a murder with the importance of bringing the Americans into the War. War Games deals with two murders that result profiteering and collaboration with the Germans. They provide drama and show how complex sentiments were in the UK even during the War. While they stand out, the other two episodes-Among the Few and The Funk Hole-provide involving mysteries to understand and solve. The acting of the principals, Michael Kitchen, Anthony Howell and Honeysuckle Weeks is first rate.
on September 8, 2005
Series 3 of the excellent series Foyle's war was first telecast in the U.S. on PBS on 11, 18, 25 Sep. and 3 Oct. 2005 and was released on DVD on 1 Nov. 2005. However, watching the DVDs of all series is preferable if one wants to see the unexpurgated episodes. Here are the first telecast dates for series 1-4 of Foyle's war:
series 1: telecast UK Oct.-Nov. 2002, US in Feb. 2003 (on Masterpiece theater, with Russell Baker introducing)
series 2: telecast UK Nov.-Dec. 2003, US in July-Aug. 2004 (on Mystery)
series 3: telecast UK Oct.-Nov. 2004, US in Sep.-Oct. 2005 (on Mystery)
series 4: was filmed in spring 2005, will be telecast in 2006
The PBS broadcasts in the US are edited for a 90-minute period, which includes the Mystery (or Masterpiece theater) opening-closing sequences, between-program promos, etc. This means that each episode is really only 85 minutes long at best. Region 1 DVDs (U.S., Canada), in contrast, are about 100 minutes per episode, as are the region 2 DVDs (Europe--see www.amazon.co.uk): specific values for the 4 episodes on series 2 are (for region 1) 98.5, 97.9, 98.3, 98.3 minutes. Thus in the U.S. for the proper, more nuanced episode watching Foyle's war on DVD is essential and preferable to viewing it on PBS.
Note: In a 28 Sep. 2004 interview with creator-writer Anthony Horowitz, he was asked: "Do you realise that the show is edited to pieces when it's shown on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the states?" Horowitz replied: "Yes we're very sorry about that. It's not something I'd choose to do. It's American networking. I'd advise all American fans to get their hands on the English DVDs to see them in full." I note here that American fans need only get the *American* DVDs to see the episodes in full. Also, if you first watch the shortened PBS telecast, you may later wonder about some lengthier scenes when you watch the DVDs.
on July 21, 2004
Brett's Sherlock series is genious, dark and brooding.
Hickson's Marple is quaint yet eerily sinister.
Suchet's Poirot is clever and fun.
Thaw's Morse is gritty and operatic.
Kitchen's Foyle? Pefect. The character growth, the historical connections, the intricate puzzles, the mutliple stories in each episode all tied to satisfactory conclusions... This is mystery evolved. Never as gritty as Morse perhaps, but always true to the sorrow and emotions of the time yet able to maintain levity notheless for the interactions of its primary characters and the pure whimsy with which dark plots are linked together. Top notch guest casts and some of the best original TV score music come together to make each episode a delight.
Episode takes on a different facet of the war showing, a side of homefront coping audiences have never quite seen. While 'Fifty Ships' may feature a shady American character this should not deter US fans. Afterall if one lousy American paints our country in a poor light... then what is the series doing for Britain!? We've been shown all manner of English villains both hurting and helping the war effort. The show simply portays evil as capable of lurking under the most pristine exteriors.
If it didn't, Miss Marple would simply sit around sipping tea! Morse would do nothing but drive that Jag... and Poirot's little grey cells would rot.
Foyle does all his predecessors proud. I certainly hope this ITV masterpiece has as long a career as Morse. (33 shows!) I was fortuante to see these in England earlier this year while studying abroad and was anticipating this release on the edge of my seat. Here's hoping for Foyle Series 3 next year!
on November 29, 2005
I usually find murder mystery dramas a hit-or-miss affair but Foyle's War has renewed my faith in a genre that has largely been done to death in recent years.
Foyle's War is superbly written with great acting from all the main characters (as well as supporting cast and guest stars) - in particular, of course, Michael Kitchen as the rather sobering Christopher Foyle.
Foyle is a rather complex detective, with an inner turmoil of morality and upholding the law (though upholding the law is his final prerogative). For exmaple, there is an episode where a warden has been caught looting from a bombed house and a new emergency law means that the thieving warden will be hanged as a looter. The warden cannot believe, in his niavity, that his crime deserves punishment of such gravitus. Through Kitchen's subtle facial expressions, we can sense a conflict between the severity of the warden's inevitable punishment and the duty to uphold the law, especially in the cruel time of war. To me, that makes great acting - not what the character says, or how it is said, but what the character says in silence.
War fever England is recreated realistically with actual historical facts incorporated into the fictional story (such as internment camps for German citizens).
Each episode is approx 100 minutes long (uncut versions) and are complex enough to have ample replay value.
If you like intelligent, well written dramas with great acting I highly recommend Foyle's War.
on October 11, 2004
I bought the first set on a whim and not knowing what I was really getting beyond some great actors like Michael Kitchen and Anthony Howell(I tend to not be that big on mystery series by chance.) What I did get was excellent story telling, timely issues discussed within the context of a historical drama, and characters that you can't help but adoring more with each new episode.
I can happily report that after receiving Set 2 last week, the series only gets better. The characters are fleshed out even more. The seemingly unflappable Foyle shows some vulnerable moments while his son gets some juicy plot time. Samantha the driver is a spunkier and pluckier, while his trusty sidekick Paul Milner seems to adjust smoothly professionally(although him and the wifey are still at it).
The various storylines are discussed already quite well by the previous reviewer, so let me just add that if you are considering buying this set, I would highly recommend it. This is a classy, smart, and enjoyable series with great actors who make the most out of their roles. And man, someone needs to bring back those fedoras and suits from that era-they look so hot on guys!
Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen) returns in the second season of Foyle's War, and the series remains as well-written and gripping as the first season was. Foyle is a British cop based in the southern part of England. It's Autumn, 1940. Britain, woefully unprepared, is at war with Germany. Foyle is a taciturn man, even sad. He has lost his wife and his only child has signed up with the Royal Air Force and is a fighter pilot. Foyle knows his son is going to be at high risk every time he takes off. Foyle desperately wanted to join up, too, but was told by his superiors that his talents are far better utilized where he is. He has reluctantly accepted that reality. Foyle is a dedicated, no-nonsense cop. He's respectful to authority and the rich, but he isn't intimidated. If a person has committed a crime, especially one which could damage Britain's war effort, Foyle will never let up until the crime is solved and justice -- by the book -- is done.
This series is effective for several reasons. The production values are high. A great deal of effort has been placed in evoking the look and style of England at the start of WWII. The cast which backs up Kitchen is first rate. These include the ongoing characters of Samantha Stewart played by Honeysuckle Weeks (a great name) as Foyle's driver. Stewart is an energetic, curious young woman, brave when she needs to be, who gradually earns Foyle's respect. Paul Milner is played by Anthony Howell. Milner, who lost a leg in the Norway campaign, is assigned to Foyle as his detective sergeant. Milner has to build back his confidence and Foyle can't give him much time to do so. Showing up in one-time roles this season are such accomplished actors as Alan Howard, Amanda Root, Nicholas Farrell, Corin Redgrave and Henry Goodman.
Most of all, the series works so well because of Michael Kitchen and the mysteries themselves, all of which are drawn from issues of the early war period. Kitchen is an excellent, subtle, versatile actor whose long career includes the amusing and reprehensibly egoistic doctor in Reckless, the well-intentioned but naive king utterly outmaneuvered by Francis Urquhart in To Play the King and the unprincipled charlatan who finds himself facing Inspector Morse. Inspector Foyle is a serious, thoughtful man of high principles, who keeps most of his deepest feelings to himself but who is not without a sense of wry humor. Kitchen captures the man perfectly. The mysteries this season involve an illicit fuel racket, a genteel hotel out of harm's way with very good food that attracts the wealthy who don't like bombs, an organized ring of looters, a highly-placed American up to his eyes in murder and Lend Lease and how money tries to influence murder investigations as well as government contracts. The series was conceived and is researched and written by Anthony Horowitz, who consistently turns out literate and complex scripts.
Also out are Seasons 1 and 3, with 4 on its way. Each of the four stories is approximately 1' 40" long. The four DVDs in the set have excellent pictures and audio. Extras include interviews with Weeks and Howell and cast filmographies.