PBS // 2007 // 2430 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Jason Panella // November 9th, 2013
Lewis: "'Life born of fire.' I bet that means something in
Hathaway: "What makes you say that? "
Lewis: "This is Oxford. Everything always means something in Latin "
Inspector Lewis (UK title: Inspector Lewis) may be a spin-off of the popular and long-running Inspector Morse series, but the show stands on its own legs just fine. PBS's hefty Inspector Lewis: Pilot Through Series 6 set collects all 27 of the show's movie-length episodes, which range in quality from pretty good to astonishingly great. It's a fantastic collection for Inspector Lewis newcomers and veterans alike.
Kevin Whately (Inspector Morse) stars as the titular character, a modest, blue-collar cop from the northern part of England. It's been years since Detective Inspector Robbie Lewis served with the late Inspector Morse, and he's since returned to the city of Oxford after a personal tragedy. Lewis is paired with the young Sergeant Jim Hathaway (Laurence Fox, Gosford Park), an enigmatic and erudite ex-seminarian with an astonishingly droll take on things. The pair work well together, a good thing considering the fairly regular stack of corpses that the Oxfordshire area seems to generate. The core cast is rounded out by the detectives' boss, Chief Superintendent Jean Innocent (Rebecca Front, The Thick of It) and forensic pathologist Laura Hobson (Clare Holman, Blood Diamond). While CS Innocent and Dr. Hobson are often relegated to the background, they still make quite an impression; Innocent frequently questions Lewis's choices in investigation (before jetting off to the latest charity ball or fundraising concert), and Hobson provides rye, thoughtful reflections that prove helpful to the cases at hand.
Inspector Lewis relies on a formula of sorts, but it works like magic. Each episode begins with an excellent montage that sets up the mystery at hand. Bodies start to pile up, and Hathaway and Lewis use their brains and intuition (respectively) to figure things out. Yet while the show rarely deviates from this pattern, it never feels wooden or like a mere copycat of classic British mysteries. The crimes and motives are often believable, and the Oxford setting provides ample esoteric and high-brow storylines. If you're a fan of classic literature, eclectic music, or high art, chances are there will be a few episodes that knock your socks off. Lewis and Hathaway really make the show tick, though -- the duo bicker like a married couple and frequently make mistakes in their investigation. Whately gives Lewis a frumpy, confident air that is often at odds with the self-important academics and artists who get swept up in the episodes. And Fox's Hathaway is a force of nature -- he's basically a superhuman, a gangly, awkward renaissance cop who always has the right answer or joke for the occasion. Occasionally ridiculous? Sure. Awesome? Absolutely.
The biggest draw of this collection is that, for the first time in the United States, the episodes are available in their original UK format. PBS's Masterpiece Mystery! series, which broadcasts Inspector Lewis in the US, only allots 90 minutes to its shows. Most Inspector Lewis episodes clock in at around 98 minutes, which means eight minutes are trimmed for US audiences. While I've not seen the truncated US versions, I can't imagine what they leave out; these episodes are packed with important little details and bits of dialogue that are integral to the overall story.
Inspector Lewis: Pilot Through Series 6 collects all of the show's available episodes into a single boxed set (as of this review, the show's seventh and likely final season is not yet available in the US). The 27 episodes are collected on 14 discs in three DVD keep cases. The 1.78:1 anamorphic quality is top notch for a standard definition release, and the two English audio tracks (stereo and surround) are equally excellent. The collection includes two extras: "Making Of" (48:46) and "Interview with Kevin Whately" (11:46), which are exactly what they say.
A fantastic mystery series. As American fans, this is the set to get. Not
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 2430 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated