Why Endeavour is the most comforting show on TV

Endeavour Morse and his old-fashioned boss Fred Thursday were made for Sunday binges, says Alison Graham

Shaun Evans as Endeavour Morse and Roger Allam as Fred Thursday in Endeavour (ITV, HF)

It’s the dog-days of winter, and Sunday afternoons can be long, chilly expanses of grey, more grey and a bit more grey after that. The roast beef and Yorkshire puds are lying heavily but it’s too cold for a walk around the block to aid the digestion. So what could be better than a box set of Endeavour?

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I have an actual proper old-fashioned physical DVD box set of Endeavour and there’s still a residual thrill at putting a silvery disc into the ancient machine before I’m enveloped in comfort.

I’ve watched them to bits but, truly, there’s nothing better for a post-lunch binge than Endeavour

A new series is currently airing and the Sixties have definitely stopped swinging (it’s 1969). Endeavour himself (Shaun Evans) has a moustache and looks like he’s already hit the 1970s. The old Oxford City Police service has gone, absorbed by the huge Thames Valley force.

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Yet I still love the box-set old days of pub saloon bars turned yellow with nicotine-stained paintwork, the old-fashioned coppering (some of it highly questionable) and that once burgeoning partnership, later friendship, between Morse and his boss, the mighty Fred Thursday (Roger Allam).

The one thing that always characterises writer Russell Lewis’s Endeavour episodes (he’s written every single one) is the care he takes. These are stories you can get lost in for nearly two hours, which is a rarity in days when we are told everyone wants quick hits of short shows.

But in the crazy world of rapidfire television, Russell Lewis takes his time with Endeavour, and you know you are in for a near-enough two-hour treat. I have a handful of favourites, though I think Nocturne (series two, episode two) is top of my list. There’s a delicious hint of the supernatural, even the gothic with possibly a small dash of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, as Morse and Thursday arrive at a girls’ school after the murder of an academic in an Oxford museum.

There are reports of hauntings and indeed Morse thinks he sees a ghost – I know, I know, I’m a sucker for this kind of thing. But there’s a genuine air of menace, of not-of-this-world, about the episode, which is, of course, beautifully filmed.

Then there’s Sway, also from series two, which is achingly sad and gives us a glimpse into Fred Thursday ’s war experiences, particularly an incident in occupied Italy involving a lovely young woman called Luisa. Years later, she turns up in Oxford, and Fred’s heart is ripped open all over again.

I’m sure you have your own favourites, but at the epicentre of every single episode is the relationship between Morse and Thursday. Morse is young, enthusiastic, brilliant but a bit wayward, while Thursday is the steady, experienced hand, the old-fashioned copper who isn’t the big cuddly rabbit he might at first seem. Fred can be brutal in his methods and isn’t afraid to use his fists to coerce/punish suspects, much to Morse’s fury.

Yet there is so much that binds Fred and Morse, not just the police work, but their adoration, in different ways of course, of Fred’s lovely, spirited, independent daughter, Joan.

So I’ll look forward, when the time comes, to adding series six to those Sunday box sets. The afternoons just won’t be long enough…


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Endeavour airs Sundays at 8pm on ITV