Lewis S7 – Down Among the Fearful

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There’s not much to say about the first story in the new series of Lewis – it’s very much the same old fare, with a languid mystery loosely weaving themes of religious faith involving suspects played by famous actors being played out against the beautiful backdrop of Oxford all set to the seductive lush score by composer Barrington Phelong.

Lewis (Kevin Whately) himself appears to have perked up somewhat since last we saw him, but Hathaway (Laurence Fox) is even more sour than usual, mainly because he’s lumbered with a neck brace from a car accident early on – which seems to have been done purely as a visual gag, and for a final scene pay-off where it comes in handy while making an arrest. Sadly there’s little time for the other two regulars, Dr Hobson (Clare Holman) and DCS Innocent (Rebecca Front) in this one.

All should be well in the premier-class of British TV detective mystery then, right? Well unfortunately, no. The programme itself might be business as usual, but someone at ITV central command has decided to shake things up scheduling wise: instead of showing the story in one two-hour block (as Lewis and its predecessor Inspector Morse have always been ever since 1987), with this series the airing is split into two hour-long chunks separate by a week.

Its possible that I’m just getting to be a grumpy old git who doesn’t like change, but for me at least this completely kills the show. The first part was fine and felt relatively normal, but by the time seven days had gone past I’d largely forgotten the events of the first hour and couldn’t remember who was who or what they were supposed to be up to. Within ten minutes I was so alienated from it that I pretty much stopped watching or caring, and just held on for the scenery and for the performances of Whately and Fox. As for the rest if it, it was a write-off.

The problem is that the pacing and writing of the show just isn’t meant to support a two one-hour episode format: the programme has always worked by a gentle build-up of atmosphere, an accretion of facts and information that slowly forms itself into a solution. It’s simply not a high-impact show with action scenes and tense moments of gripping suspense that you’ll remember in detail a week later. Characters that are introduced early in part one are then largely dropped until they’re required to pop up again for the denouement at the end of part two, which is frustrating rather than satisfying.

I tried to give this new two-part formatting a go, honestly I did; and all I can say is that the experiment was an abject failure as far as I was concerned. If I want to continue watching the show, then since the schedulers now seem to be actively working against me and the programme clearly I’ll have to record the two instalments and watch them later, back-to-back, as a two-hour special.

Or you know what, maybe I just won’t bother. If the channel doesn’t think much of its once-flagship show anymore, maybe I’m just better off following suit.

Lewis is on ITV on Mondays at 9pm. In lamentable one-hour instalments, in case I hadn’t made that entirely clear, so maybe you might prefer to wait for the DVD which is out on February 18, 2013.

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