Monday, December 29, 2008

Mysteries on TV: A Look Back at Foyle's War

Mysteries on TV

, your source for the most complete selection of detective, amateur sleuth, private investigator, and suspense television mystery series now available or coming soon to DVD, on Mondays typically profiles series that have DVD sets being released the following Tuesday. With the next new release of a mystery series not scheduled until after the first of the year, we thought we'd take the last three Mondays of 2008 to highlight some of our favorite series.

This week: Foyle's War.

Any discussion of our favorite series wouldn't be complete without mentioning . There were but 19 episodes filmed over a period of 5 years yet this series profoundly affected how we view mystery television.

Michael Kitchen starred as Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Foyle, a police officer in the southern coastal town of Hastings. The series is set during World War II and each episode is dated to correspond to a real time (and real events) during the war. Two other characters appeared in every episode: Foyle's right-hand man Sergeant Paul Milner was played by Anthony Howell, and Samantha "Sam" Stewart, Foyle's driver, was played by Honeysuckle Weeks. Julian Ovenden had a recurring role as Foyle's son, Andrew, an RAF pilot. The series was created and written by Anthony Horowitz.

No series is perfect, but Foyle's War comes close. Very close. The casting was ideal and the actor's portrayals of their characters was astonishly believable. Michael Kitchen in particular played Foyle in such a confident, understated manner that he projects a powerful screen presence. To be fair, the actors were given strongly developed characters by Horowitz. Foyle, for example, was never one willing to compromise, but he knew that war was not fair and that sometimes doing the right thing meant doing something unpopular, especially with his superiors. This conflict in values provided the foundation for many of the episodes.

The production values are as high as you'll ever see on series television. The south coast of England is meticulously depicted as it was during the 1940s and the visuals are frequently stunning to look at. If nothing else, it's a marvelous period series.

But what sets Foyle's War above many others of its kind is the first-rate writing and the intricate plots that compel the viewer to pay close attention, listen to every word and take in all details. Most episodes couple a war event (or something to do with the war) with a local crime. That they're connected is almost a given; how they're connected, and how Foyle will use the information available to him, is the mystery. Of the 19 episodes, only 2 or 3 are relatively weakly plotted (though when we rewatched the series with another couple, they completely disagreed). Still and all, it's a good track record.

All five sets of are available on DVD. (ITV aired the series in 6 sets with two of them consisting of 2 episodes each; these two sets were combined into one for the DVD release.) We've also put together a Foyle's War Squidoo lens with additional information about the characters and episodes.

And there may yet be more! Last April The Guardian reported that ITV was in discussion to continue the series as Foyle's Peace. In August, the Daily Mail stated the series was confirmed. But we can find nothing more definitive on the series published recently.

Visit the Mysteries on TV website to discover more currently available on DVD.

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