In this week’s Lewis the pasty plod investigates the murder of a black female bishop. Just as you pause to marvel at this admirable piece of ITV box ticking, listen to Lewis explain to his boss that the victim was “at some colloquium, which is posh for conference”.
Oh no! Someone used a posh word! For the love of god, bolt the doors, lock the windows, posh is on the loose! Is blood coming out of the taps? Have the birds stopped singing? Are packs of dogs roaming our suburban streets, biting the heads off children and assaulting hamsters?
Whitewash the windows and hide under the kitchen table! The posh is about to explode and kill us all! Protect and survive the posh! I’m not sure what’s at work here. Is it anti-intellectualism, or just lazy crowd-pleasing? Whatever it is, it’s corrosive, banal and dispiriting and Lewis is not alone in his mistrust of the brainy.
In soaps, anyone with rimless glasses and two A levels is usually unmasked as a paedophile (apart from
Ken Barlow, and he’s a whole, separate column), and even being dead and posh is no protection.
In the last episode of Silk (BBC1), a murdered judge turned out to have been a swine killed by his rent boy acting in self-defence. “You believe her because she’s posh!” wailed the defendant of the dead man’s wife. She turned out to be a liar.
I wasn’t in the least surprised. Clever people are always bad and deserve punishment (Midsomer Murders, Hustle) – or they are a mess sexually (Bouquet of Barbed Wire) or mendacious and out to get their own (Judge John Deed).
And poor Lewis, he hates “posh”. Posh words and posh people, because “posh” for Lewis is a linguistic catch-all that means “clever” or even just “quite intelligent”. Lewis, dear, lumpen Lewis, is the sort of person who would claim, as dull and not terribly well-read people always do, that they were educated at “the university of life” and have no truck with reading and all that education-type stuff.
No, not when there’s coal to be mined and the boats have to come in to land the herring catch on the dock… Sorry, forgive me, I just came over all Northern. It happens sometimes.
Both Lewis the character and Lewis the drama mistrust posh or, rather, intelligent people. In Lewis, professional brainy types are always shifty and invariably guilty of something – if not actual murder, then adultery or – and this is probably the worst TV drama crime of all – being too clever by half.
Take last week’s episode centred on a reunion at an all-female Oxford college packed with clever, successful women. Absolutely every single one of them was horrible, selfish and rude and the only decent person in the whole place was the college porter.
In next week’s episode Douglas Henshall plays a psychiatrist and he’s a jerk; dismissive, unpleasant and
pompous, which gives Lewis the chance to lay on his “I’m an Everyman, me” persona with a large digger.
The clever are the enemy and always the objects of greatest suspicion, apart from Hathaway, Lewis’s sidekick, who quotes Bunyan and tries not to look as if he’d like to hang his boss from a gibbet outside the Bodleian Library.