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The Best of the Best

I know several people -- myself included -- who view the 1987-2000 drama Inspector Morse as being among the best television shows of all-time. Set in beautiful Oxford, England it was a mainstay on PBS for over a decade, and has fans all over the world. Many love the duo of the cranky, intelligent Morse and the affable, plodding Lewis. I thought it appropriate, therefore, to single-out my Top 5 favorite Morse episodes. They are as follows:

The Wolvercote Tongue (1987): a dramatization of Colin Dexter's novel The Jewel That Was Ours, this story is a good romp for several different reasons. Take your pick from the fussy American tourists, the great turns by Simon Callow and Kenneth Cranham, the back & forth between Morse & Lewis, or the great locations. Oh, and the story is quite good, too!

Ghost In the Machine (1989): perhaps my favorite episode, it investigates the death of a man who took "dirty pictures," and is set on a picturesque country estate. It features the famous Cats interaction between Morse & Lewis, a crackling-good storyline, and some stellar acting by all involved.

Deceived by Flight (1989): this episode is great fun! Morse & Lewis investigating murder and a cricket team in the heart of Oxford University -- doesn't get much better than this. We're also treated to Lewis going undercover (sort of), a situation that Morse has great fun with.

Driven to Distraction (1990): in some ways a run-of-the-mill, meandering episode, but one that I've always liked. Perhaps the addition of a female sidekick adds to it somehow? At any rate, I like the frequent visits to the car dealership, as well as the tension created due to the eyebrow-raising investigative techniques. The parts with the killer arriving on-scene, listening to jazz music, are also quite effective. Oh, and it was written by Anthony Minghella. What's not to like?

Death Is Now My Neighbour (1997): probably the best of the later episodes. It features a hotly-contested battle for the seat of Master at an Oxford college, and the revelation of Morse's first name. It's based on a Colin Dexter novel, which no doubt helps. The story also features Richard Briers in the villainous role of Sir Clixby Bream, and Christopher Hitchens look-a-like Roger Allam, who is always good in whatever he does. I also like the exchange between Lewis & Morse about fatherhood.

Oh, and I have to give an honorable mention to Second Time Around (1991), which has Kenneth Colley (the actor who played Admiral Piett) in a great role as an obsessed detective. Add to the mix a wonderfully sad story, a sympathetic grandmother character, and music by Puccini, and you have the makings of one great story.

So, these are the six best of the best. The best episodes of the best detective series of all-time. Surely you agree? And if you don't, you should watch (or re-watch) the aforementioned episodes).


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