The trouble with English cops – at least, the TV ones – is they’re so unrelentingly cooperative.
They work together, pay attention, stay flexible. That’s fine for some things – solving crimes, for instance – but not for making an American-style cop show.
Fortunately, “Endeavour” — the mystery series on PBS’ “Masterpiece” — has figured that out. The new season, which starts Sunday (June 16), stirs things up.
A prequel to “Inspector Morse,” the series has been showing us Endeavour Morse’s early years. It’s had interesting settings (around Oxford), clever cases, a lively era (the ’60s), intelligent dialog (this is Oxford, after all) and solid – if super-stoic – actors.
What it has lacked was the classic cop conflict.
In the older American shows, police bosses yelled and pounded tables and accused younger (and better-looking) cops of being loose cannons. They got in the way, helping prolong the story.
But the British keep working together. Last season, Morse’s workplace was the picture of collegiality.
Superintendent Bright, looking like your second-favorite lit teacher, was a benign boss. Detective Chief Inspector Thursday was a quietly agreeable superior; Morse spent time in his home and took a romantic interest in his daughter Joan. Detective Sergeant Fancy was Morse’s ineffectual assistant.
Then came last year’s season-finale: Fancy was killed, the station was closed, everyone was reassigned.
As this season starts, Bright is in the traffic division. Thursday has been demoted a rank and works for the self-centered Box; so does Morse, who’s been sent to the boondocks. Morse has no girlfriend and an awful mustache; those two things may be related.
(We should pause here to ponder those surnames – Bright … Fancy … Box … Thursday. After exhausting all its creative energy naming Endeavour Morse, the show has named everyone else after a Volkswagen bus and a weekday.)
The season-opener centers on two missing-girl cases. The second episode (June 23) has several bodies – murder? suicide? accident? — against the backdrop of the moon landing.
Both require coincidences … and sudden, Sherlock-style solutions … and villains who talk a lot (remember, this is Oxford) about what they did. But the first story is terrific and the second is tangled, but interesting. By TV-crime standards, that’s close enough.
— “Masterpiece: Endeavour,” 9-10:30 p.m. Sundays, PBS; four weeks, starting June 16