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Paddy Duffy

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Watching The Detectives

Posted: 09/01/12 01:46

I do love Christmas: candy canes on the tree, lazy days eating nothing but candy and watching films starring John Candy. But now, alas, the festive season is well and truly over. But while I lament the passing for yet another year of justifying eating anything you like when you like and watching Disney films after dragging yourself out of bed around two o'clock, at least I can be thankful for some great seasonal television.

Pre-eminent within the schedules this year happened to be two shows of the detective genre. A genre that lends itself well to times of leisure (as frequent Sunday afternoon airings of Jonathan Creek or Jessica Fletcher will attest) it can be hard for a new programme to distinguish itself in a crowded field of Colombos, Poirots and, eh, Barnabys. Distinguishing itself was no such problem, however, for the brain porn that is Sherlock.

Stephen Moffat has a gift for taking well-known characters I personally couldn't be arsed about and making them incredibly engaging. Prior to him and Russell T Davies taking over, The Doctor was just a time travelling showband singer to me, and Sherlock a tweed-wearing wielder of a cartoonishly large magnifying glass. Now I wouldn't miss either show for the world.

So much so in fact that I was looking forward to the return of Sherlock on New Year's Day in much the same way an elderly preacher looks forward to a fiery Rapture, and it did not disappoint.

Last week's episode was a real tour de force, with Sherlock overcoming his fear of cooties to become ever so enchanted by the irrepressibly brilliant dominatrix Irene Adler. While Sherlock met his match and The Woman (to give her professional sobriquet) was generally well-received, not everyone was so impressed. Jane Clare Jones, blogging for The Guardian, claimed Adler as written by Moffat was a regressive, sexist step. Nah, I didn't see it either.

While I wait on tenterhooks (no doubt a specialty of Miss Adler's) for the next and final episode of Sherlock following last week's episode that resembled a better crack at an X-Files movie, another much-loved detective caught my attention last week in a one-off prequel. It's been 25 years since the dear departed John Thaw replaced his ard bastid Sweeney days for the more gentile brigands of Oxford with his portrayal of Inspector Morse, but Endeavour showed how he got started as a wet-eared constable in 1965, a sort of Rock And Chips for sleuths.

While not the biggest Morse aficionado I knew enough to get the subtle allusions: his first swig of the ale he'd later come to love, a storyline that poignantly underpinned his love of classical music and fascination with crosswords, the place where he first developed a soft spot for Jags. And, in a lovely finale scene as the code-infused music that would become his signature tune started playing, Young Morse was asked where he saw himself in twenty years time, and he saw the eyes of John Thaw in his rear view mirror. Which must have been a bit of a shock. Endeavour was helped in his voyage of detecting discovery by Inspector Fred Thursday, played by the brilliant Roger Allam, who really ought to have a spinoff of his own. It'd be like Heartbeat but not tiresome.

 

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