Whenever my wife and I watch an episode of Lewis, we like to play a little game, the rule of which is very simple: whichever of us is last to spot the Bridge of Sighs has to fetch the tea in the next commercial break.
The game is foolproof because the Bridge of Sighs features in every single episode. Either a camera pans across it or a suspect cycles underneath it or someone receives an urgent mobile call just as they’re standing by the side of it.
You’d think we’d grow tired of seeing it crop up time and again, this local hotspot where Lewis and Hathaway seemingly spend half their lives discussing pathology findings or the relevance of Sophocles to their latest case. But no. Without the Bridge of Sighs, how would we know that this was Lewis we’d tuned into, rather than say, The Wire? And, more importantly, how would we know which of us had to make the tea when the ads come on?
Reliability is very important when it comes to a show like Lewis because for viewers like my wife and I (basically clapped-out parents whose living room by 8pm is a minefield of stickle bricks and Playmobil pirate swords that we’re too exhausted to pick up), it acts as a kind of salve.
When your mind is a mush of oatcakes and Calpol, the last thing you need is to wrap what’s left of your brain around tortuous subplots and, god forbid, layers of ambiguity. With Lewis, you know the aforementioned bridge is going to crop up, just as you know that Robbie will never have the gumption to ask Dr Hobson out on a date, that any academic is bound to be a cad and that the murderer will have a link to Hathaway’s mysterious ecclesiastical past.
It’s almost like the writers are aware of what we need – maybe they’re fearful that if they stray too far then they’re going to lose us forever to repeats of The Inspector Lynley Mysteries. Perhaps that’s why they flatter what’s left of our intelligence with all those classical allusions that never seem to have any bearing on the case: “Ah yes, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle” we say wistfully, “I remember reading about such things in the days before The Gruffalo came along and ruined everything.”
So imagine the sense of dread and horror that will be felt by those in the same situation as myself when they learn that Lewis is to come to an end. One more series is all that remains, according to actor Laurence Fox. Then what will we be left with? And don’t come at me with your Midsomer Murders – that’s been a pale shadow of its former self ever since Cully Barnaby packed up her Laura Ashley dresses and quit the county.
What we want is for Lewis to never finish. It may have started out as methadone for Morse fans but it’s become something much more important. Yes, it’ll live on in perpetuity on ITV3, attracting a new legion of devotees or maybe just the ones who nodded off with ten minutes to go the first time around. But for my wife and I, the stakes are much higher: we could end up in Relate over the whole brewing-up thing. And Kevin Whately will be the one to blame.