Colin Dexter introduced Chief Inspector Morse and Sergeant Lewis to readers in 1975. Between 1975 and 1999, through thirteen novels and a book of short stories, readers came to know Morse as gruff, irascible, and unfailingly brilliant. Along side Morse, doing his best to support his boss, was Sergeant Lewis, a down-to-earth, happily married man who has one of the most difficult jobs in the Thames Valley police – keeping Morse happy. Although an impossible task, Lewis was loyal to the end. In 1999, Colin Dexter chose to end the series.
Public Broadcasting knew a good thing and in 1987 aired the first episode of Inspector Morse. Based on The Dead of Jericho, Morse was played by John Thaw and Lewis was played by Kevin Whately. When the books and the TV series ended with the death of Morse, it was inevitable that it was the end of Sergeant Lewis as well.
In 2006, Inspector Lewis was broadcast as a one-episode filler but it was so popular that it was expanded into a series. The characters in the series are a mirror image of the relationship between Lewis and Morse. Lewis is now a widower, his children grown. He has his own sergeant, James Hathaway. Lewis was working class to the Oxford educated Morse. Lewis is working class to the Cambridge educated Hathaway. Hathaway is as loyal to Lewis as Lewis was to Morse. The fifth series will be broadcast in September. In the meantime, PBS is showing Series II beginning August 7.
The books are likely dated. It is always a surprise when watching and old movie or TV program have to search for a telephone. It is easy to forget that we didn’t always have a cell phone glued to the palms of our hands. Yet, the were beautifully written and, to some degree, character driven. The crimes weren’t exclusive to Oxford and the series is most likely still a good reading experience.
John Thaw was a popular and well-regarded actor in Britain when he was chosen to play Morse in the series based on the books. When Colin Dexter was asked how he pictured Morse he responded by saying that Morse looked just like John Thaw. The author hadn’t developed an image of his character as he wrote but he said that when the say Thaw in the series, he then knew what Morse looked like.
The last Morse book, The Remorseful Day, was published in 1999. The episode of the same name was broadcast in 2001. John Thaw died in 2001. There is a plan afoot in England to create a series that begins when Morse is a student at Oxford.
This link allows the user to take Morse’s Jaguar around Oxford to the places associated with various episodes of the PBS production.