on August 21, 2011
The episodes on this DVD set are great (as always).
My only complaint is that the price currently shown ($31.49) is substantially higher than the price offered on another site. I have no doubt that Amazon will rectify this problem. I love Amazon, but you should check this issue before you place your order.
Although the product description of this DVD set claims that the running time is only 60 minutes, another web site notes that it is 360 minutes. This is probably a typo. I mention this because it means that the episodes provided by PBS on this DVD set are the full episodes shown in the UK. PBS cuts 10 minutes from the US TV broadcast in order to fit the episode into the Masterpiece time slot, which I don't mind so long as the full episodes are offered on the DVD. Unfortunately, PBS has a history of only putting the abridged version of episodes on the DVDs that PBS produces (as opposed to ACORN or BBC). For example, while the full Inspector Lewis episodes are offered on Series 3 and 4, only the abridged versions are offered on the earlier series. I believe that the change to selling the full episodes on the DVDs happened because a number of people complained about the abridged DVDs in reviews like this one. So, be careful about the running time when you buy PBS Masterpiece produced DVDs. Wikipedia states:
"PBS owns the exclusive rights to both broadcast Lewis and to manufacture DVDs for North America. This is in contrast to Inspector Morse, which was commissioned by British company Carlton Television (originally Central Independent Television) and which included all original broadcast footage, even if that footage was edited on North American TV stations. PBS edits 10 minutes out of every Lewis episode so that it fits into the 90 minute Masterpiece Mystery time slot; this includes a preview of the episode's contents narrated by Alan Cumming before the episode and commercials for other PBS programs at the end of this slot. Even Barrington Pheloung's end credit music is abruptly cut for this purpose. For the Pilot, Inspector Lewis 1, and Inspector Lewis 2 DVD sets, PBS Home Video releases what was broadcast on-air in the US as opposed to the UK DVD content. However, for the new Inspector Lewis 3 DVD set, PBS Home Video has released the unedited UK version of the programs contained in the set."
In conclusion: (i) great series, (ii) full episodes on DVD, but (iii) check the price.
on September 14, 2011
More of what we love about Robbie Lewis, D.S. Hathaway and Laura Hobson, with no annoying introduction from Masterpiece Mystery or PBS! The quality of the recording, both video and audio, is excellent. The plots are intriguing. And most of all, the relationships between the trio of main characters develop over the course of the episodes, giving ever more insight into the complexities of their personalities. There is a new ease in the Lewis-Hathaway team, which only enhances the enjoyment of being in Oxford with Inspector Lewis! While these episodes can stand alone, watch the earlier series first in order to appreciate the awkward, slow, and sometimes bittersweet road to a working relationship between Lewis and Hathaway, as well as the awakening of romantic feelings between Robbie and Laura. There are so many layers to these episodes (the beautiful visuals of Oxford, the music, the characters and plot) that they can be watched again and again with no loss of enjoyment! Getting this set early has one down-side, i.e., a longer wait for Inspector Lewis 5 (Season 6)!
Had to add this postscript...I just finished the last episode, which I was trying to save...the last exchange between Hathaway and Lewis is priceless! Great place to leave us until the next series!
on August 26, 2011
When we ordered the first "Lewis" we were very skeptical since it was a spinoff of the incredibly well-done "Morse" series. But to our delight they are just as compelling and beautiful. We have recently rewatched all episodes through series 3 in anticipation of the 4th series being released. Highly recommend--you won't be disappointed.
on September 16, 2011
The Inspector Lewis series continues with 4 new episodes that are identical to the U.K. releases. Beginning with Series Three PBS has been shipping the U.K. versions (for Region 1 US/Canada DVD players) without trimming 10 minutes off the story line and, most importantly, without the sneering PBS host irritating everyone before the opening credits. These episodes continue the slightly melancholy but beautifully produced police procedural first viewed almost twenty five years ago with the "Inspector Morse" mysteries.
Lewis, once Morse's lackey D.S., is now a Detective Inspector and has his own sergeant, James Hathaway. Inspector Lewis, while more mature and now in charge, is pretty much the same character he played in "Morse". Hathaway on the other hand is very much a younger, Cambridge educated version of what we might imagine Morse was like early in his career. Like Morse, Hathaway is brilliant but flawed, so the critical dynamic of character remains the same in both series. And, like in "Inspector Morse", the university plays a pivotal role just as important as the lead characters themselves. While the Morse mysteries were elementarily more Gothic than "Inspector Lewis", the conflict of old religion intruding into the modern world is still an occasional thematic treatment. As of yet we haven't been treated to story lines from the Greek classics, Italian opera or Wagnerian excess, but give it time. They did do a nice murder mystery involving the Romantic poets in seasons past, so Morse's legacy of the erudite policeman lives on.
Initially I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of Lewis' character development and kept wishing him to become more of a prototypical lead rather than just a member of the ensemble. However, after 20 episodes I've now come to the conclusion that the producers have made reasonable choices and have produced a credible successor to the Morse mysteries. If Lewis suddenly became a brilliant, dashing detective it would ring false and be obvious to all that his character was manufactured to fit the role rather than be a continuum of the Colin Dexter novels. However, as a sequel to the personality driven "Inspector Morse" it falls a bit short and can appear lacking in comparison. The on again/off again romance between Lewis and Dr. Hobson (nicely played by Clare Holman) is realistic and touching but, again, can be seen as a timid and indecisive device if the writers don't bring it to some sort of resolve. Holman played the same role in the last couple Morse mysteries.
In all, "Lewis" is a treat for mature audiences and allows Morse to live on in ways that an annual viewing of the Morse episodes never could. However it can border on being a bland and pretentious police procedural rather than a compelling personality driven detective series such as it's predecessor. Whether it goes on to the long term success of "Inspector Morse" will largely depend on the quality of it's writing and the ability of the production team to create a narrative greater than a series of individual plots. Recommended, particularly if you're familiar with the predecessor to this series.
This series actually does get better and better with its complex mysteries, its spectacular settings, its superb musical score, and its outstanding cast, both the continuing characters and the supporting players, which, in each episode, present us some of the luminaries of the London theatre as well as film and television (This set includes Juliet Stevenson, Sian Phillips, Ronald Pickup, and Anna Chancellor).
The mysteries may be formulaic, but what a formula! They are elegant old-fashioned 'who-done-it?' puzzles that are nevertheless convoluted enough to keep us guessing, as we follow Robbie Lewis and James Hathaway gladly through the lanes of Oxford (and the camera focuses, for our benefit, on a carved gargoyle or gives us a closeup of one of the colleges' many gothic spires) to the gloriously picturesque scene of yet another ghastly crime in the hallowed university city that one might think to be the murder capital of the UK.
An essential ingredient of the formula is the ensemble cast of continuing characters: Kevin Whately as Inspector Lewis, Laurence Fox as Sergeant Hathaway, Claire Holman as Dr Laura Hobson, and Rebecca Front as Chief Superintendent Jean Innocent (What an ironic choice of a surname for a hardbitten Chief Superintendent of Police!). Their interaction--their humorous exchanges, their misunderstandings and tensions, as well as their mutual respect as professionals--represents the 'sand' that the brilliant writers have thrown into our eyes to distract us from solving the mystery until the last 'aha!' [or 'oh no!'] moment. In fact, Lewis, Hathaway, Hobson, and Innocent interact so beautifully that one can easily believe that they have become longtime colleagues, about whom we, the viewers, have come to care, as we would care about old friends.
I find myself laughing with Lewis and Hathaway at their little running jokes; hoping for the best as the romance between Robbie and Laura threatens to blossom; sympathising with both Lewis and Innocent, for different reasons, as each tries the other's patience; and even shedding a tear or two at some of the poignant moments that occur from time to time in the exchanges between Lewis and Hathaway.
I attribute my feelings of empathy to the remarkable abilities of Whately, Fox, Holman, and Front. Considering that the majority of their dialogue is devoted to the questioning of sundry suspects (Lewis and Hathaway), the enumeration of gruesome details about the current corpse (Hobson), or the barking at her wayward detectives because of pressures from budget cuts, Whitehall or the Chief Constable (Innocent), we are actually glimpsing only fragments of their 'lives'--fragments that have progressed gradually from episode to episode, providing the bread, as it were, for dozens of delicious murder sandwiches (slathered with dollops of ketchup).
To appreciate the subtlety of these performances, one must watch "Inspector Lewis" from the first episode. And the Inspector Lewis mysteries are so rich and complex that one can enjoy them again and again (PBS has thoughtfully provided closed captioning so we won't miss a word of Lewis's gruff Geordie--or Hathaway's silken Cambridge--accent).
I'm sending out three hearty cheers: to ITV, for continuing this outstanding series; to PBS for sending us the original uncut UK edition, and to Amazon for bringing it to us at such a reasonable price.
on January 19, 2012
Long time fans of the Inspector Morse series know Inspector Morse as a classic larger than life anti-social detective in the mold of Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolfe and Inspector Poirot. Their sidekicks are like the plain friend of a beautiful girl, there to make the great man look even greater by comparison. Lewis was Morse's junior officer, mirror and sidekick for many years both in print and on screen. Few if any readers or viewers ever imagined Lewis leading a detecting team or Kevin Whateley carrying a television show. Thank goodness that the creators at ITV did imagine Lewis and Whateley leading the pack because it turns out that he and Lewis are more entertaining than Morse was.
Inspector Lewis is, as he puts it in one of the episodes, a non-commissioned officer in terms of the police force. That is, he has worked his way up the chain of command through doggedness rather than brilliance and he is the backbone and lifeblood of any service organization. He is smart but not brilliant, hard-wroking rather than given to the brilliant deduction, treats his subordinates with affection and respect, all things that would make him a good colleague, but a bore to watch. Not true, not true. Watching Lewis advance in the service and lead a detecting team and solve crimes is a joy and it is a joy mixed with a realism that the classic genius detectives could never match.
Sgt. James is Lewis's subordinate and he shines as the junior member of the team. The mysteries are well conceived, written and plotted and the solutions and the way Lewis and James arrive at them is natural and believable. I loved Morse and always felt sorry for Lewis. I am so glad that Lewis has gotten this chance to shine as a detective and a character. Highest recommendation to lovers of procedurals, English mysteries and BBC/ITV mysteries. Really wonderful.
"Inspector Lewis Series 4" (Series 5 in the UK) is an improvement over last year's fare in that the mysteries and their solutions consistently make sense. They're not realistic, but they conform to an internal logic. So thumbs up for the writing. As usual, all mysteries revolve around the halls of academe. Inspector Lewis and pathologist Laura Hobson (Clare Holman) are growing closer -and dancing around each other like schoolchildren, which is silly but not too annoying. Pacing is good. Chief Superintendent Innocent (Rebecca Front) is completely in the background, which is a little unfortunate. She's a good character. But the rapport between DI Lewis and DS Hathaway only gets better. Four 90-minute episodes on 2 discs. Subtitles available in English SDH. The episodes are:
"Old Unhappy, Faroff Things" revolves around Oxford's only (fictional) women's college, Lady Matilda's. There is a reunion weekend to celebrate the school, attended by some protégés of the outspoken and influential Professor Diana Ellerby (Juliet Stevenson), among others. One student who remained close to Ellerby, Poppy Toynton (Kathryn O'Reilly), is found murdered on a staircase during a party. The case evokes a sense of déja vu, as 10 years ago, the sister of one of the students, Chloe Brooks (Antonia Campbell-Hughes), suffered an injury that left her in a coma, also during a party at the college. Lewis' interest in the old case is renewed, possibly to the detriment of the new one, as he and Hathaway try to piece together who had motive and what happened the night of the murder.
"Wild Justice" takes us into St. Gerard's college, a conservative religious school whose vice-regent Father Mancini (Ronald Pickup) will soon be retiring. Two conservative friars, Stephen Blackmore (Nick Sidi) and Jeremy Swain, and two liberal women, professors Caroline Hope (Ameila Bullmore) and Joanna Pinnock (Sorcha Cusack), are running in an election to determine his successor. The college falls under a cloud when visiting American Bishop Helen Parsons (Pamela Nomvete) is poisoned by a bottle of the college's wine at a picnic following a controversial interfaith colloquium. It looks like she may have been targeted for her liberal religious views, but a series of other murders follow, with methodologies straight out of Jacobean revenge plays, Caroline's area of study.
"The Mind Has Mountains" finds the detectives back in academic environs when a young woman, Amy Katz (Florence Brudenell-Bruce), is bludgeoned to death while participating in a trial for an anti-depressant medication. Psychiatrist Dr. Alex Gansa (Douglas Henshall) is using a dean's lodging to conduct a week-long trial on 6 people, with his research assistant Bethan Vicory (Lucy Liemann). Unable to cope since her brother's death in Afghanistan, Amy fancied herself in love with Gansa. She was cooped up in the house with Adam Douglas (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), an unstable student who stalked her, Jack Collins (Jack Roth), who oogled her constantly, and Afghan war veteran Dane Wise (Sam Hazeldine), among others, while the drug trial was not going very well.
"The Gift of Promise" begins as Andrea De Ritter (Elize de Toit), head of a gifted children's scholarship program, asks Grace Orde (Cherie Lunghi), retired head of MI5, to sign her memoir to "Leon" before sending the book to Leon Suskin (David Westhead) with a cryptic note: "who killed Mary, chapter 8, darling". Andrea is then found murdered. Leon's 15-year-old daughter Zoe (Lucy Boynton) is taking a course at Oxford with a professor named Donald Voss (Mark Aiken), who has taken her under his wing. Her classmate and Andrea's lover, Elmo Woodeson (Matt Orton), dies under mysterious circumstances, and the bodies keep piling up. Lewis and Hathaway believe that the deaths may be related to a 1980s IRA murder mentioned in Orde's memoir.
on September 24, 2011
Many other reviews precede this and I won't attempt to define this edition, merely add my opinion.
The chemistry between Lewis and Hathaway continues to solidify. Now a true team, they elevate this series a bit more. The filming and direction remain perfectly suited to the locale. The tension and attraction between Lewis and Doctor Hobson is being stretched a bit too long but it still works. I wish Rebecca Front would be allowed a bit more involvement, perhaps an episode with her in the lead? A talented actor who needs a bit more freedom, she seems to have slid back a bit this season.
Attracting a fine cast of supporting talent is always a treat and I loved seeing Hattie Morahan with her wide range of expression in the last episode.
It's not Morse. It stands on it's own merits and I think the late John Thaw would agree and in all likelihood, become as big a fan of the series as am I.
The series is just slow getting out on DVD but I love the UK versions so it's worth the wait.
If you enjoyed the previous seasons, you'll enjoy this as well.
on October 24, 2011
Kevin Whately, Inspector Morse's longtime sidekick, returns as Inspector Lewis after a leave from police work occasioned by the hit-and-run death of his wife a few years earlier. Now he's got a side-kick, James Hathaway (Laurence Fox), an ex-seminarian, ex-theology-major turned cop, a dead pan wit if ever there was one. The relationship between the two is that of equals-not quite what it was in the Morse series--with much excellent detective work and some of the wittiest exchanges you'll find in a cop show. Occasionally, the scenes are downright hilarious, e.g., as when the two, pursuing an investigation, visit a posh school where they are mistaken for a gay couple seeking to place their kid! Hathaway takes comic advantage of the situation by putting his hand gently on Lewis' knee! That's the stuff of high comedy. That relationship between Lewis and Hathaway stands at the heart of the series. The remaining cast is uniformly excellent, the murders compelling and plentiful-What's the murder rate in Oxford?--, and the investigations imaginative and compelling. This series is not to be missed, excellent writing, excellent casting, and attention-grabbing episodes. For my money, it outrivals the Morse series.
on October 15, 2011
Hallelujah, the UK uncut version. I really don't have much more to say than that. The PBS/US versions of the Inspector Lewis series cut out about 10 minutes from each episode. So far, this is the only season of the show I could get that featured the original UK uncut version. Watching it makes it clear just how jumpy and disjointed the US version is. I can only hope that the UK uncut version of the other seasons comes out on Region 1 dvd since I don't have a region-free DVD player and watch shows on my computer not my tv.
Summary: It's not a perfect show, but I love it. North American fans should definitely go out of their way to get access to the UK uncut version.