Lewis was Morse’s long-suffering sidekick in the original series. Now Lewis is the Inspector and he has a suffering side-kick of his own, former seminary student Sgt. Hathaway. The series features many of the same production team as MORSE, as well as the same Oxford locations and the Hitchcockian cameos by author Colin Dexter, who wrote the books that the series was based on. The commonalities end there.
The MORSE mysteries were rich, complex, surprising and intelligent…and were enlivened by Morse’s wonderfully irascible, embittered and brilliant bachelor and his strained, father-son relationship with Lewis, a simple-minded family man. The writer/directors of MORSE included Danny Boyle and Anthony Minghella…there are no comparable talents on the new show.
The mysteries in LEWIS are plodding, padded and obvious…and worst of all, they are mostly the same story told again and again (a group of current students or former classmates share a dark secret that sparks a series of killings). Lewis and Hathaway end up solving the crime through coincidence and luck rather than deduction or cleverness. The suspects are all one-dimensional cliches.
The absence of John Thaw’s Morse is keenly felt…even more so by the unnecessary references to his character that are sprinkled heavy-handedly and awkwardly through many of the episodes. One of the biggest mistakes was trying to turn Lewis into Morse…by
killing off his wife and sending away his kids. So now he is the lonely
bachelor butting heads with his bosses…almost forcing the audience to compare him to Morse. Unfortunately, his loneliness isn’t nearly as interesting and revealing as Morse’s. It’s just dull.
And while Morse’s ill-fated crushes were sad reminders of his lonely life…and his inability to fit in…the gimmick in LEWIS of having a female suspect in just about every episode wanting to drag him into bed is ridiculous and embarrassing.
And yet…I enjoy the show and pretty much devoured the episodes. I find it oddly soothing…like a cup of hot tea. The primary attraction of LEWIS is the relationship between Lewis and Hathaway (who is, by far, the more interesting character of the two) which sort of plays like “MORSE light.” Hathaway is a fascinating character and actor Lawrence Fox brings far more depth to his performance than there appears to be on the page. Their gentle banter lacks the bite of MORSE, but it has its pleasures all the same.
Maybe it’s more nostalgia for MORSE than any real love of LEWIS that keeps me watching…
LEWIS would clearly like to be the successor to MORSE…and if ratings in the UK are any indication, they’ve achieved their goal…but in my mind, REBUS wins that honor hands-down.