Inspector Morse voted 'best British crime drama' of all time

Ben Arnold
Contributor
Inspector Morse (Credit: Carlton TV)

Stand aside Miss Marple – Inspector Morse has been named the greatest British crime drama of all time.

In a poll conducted by the Radio Times, the Oxford-based sleuth, played by the late John Thaw, beat some solid competition from recent shows like Happy Valley to other classics like Helen Mirren’s Prime Suspect.

Thaw’s co-star Kevin Whately, who played Morse’s sidekick Lewis, told the magazine: “What viewers love is the fact that Morse isn’t your usual hero.

“He’s lonely, boozy, angry, but very bright. And he’s a match for all those supercilious Oxford brains.

“We were all nervous. A lot of people’s careers were riding on it. Ted Childs, who was the executive producer, was told, ‘You’d better get this right’. But the first script was by [English Patient director] Anthony Minghella and it was a real humdinger.

(Credit: Carlton TV)

“And we were also lucky in that the British film industry had just collapsed for the umpteenth time, so we got a lot of top technicians on board. It was all shot on film and we effectively made them like movies.”

Thaw’s daughter Abigail added: “When my dad was here in Oxford shooting Inspector Morse, he could never have imagined that the character would still be so popular 30 years later. In fact, even at the time, I don’t think he realised it had grabbed people in the way it did – he was just getting on with the job.

“What he was very aware of, though, was that it wasn’t your run-of-the-mill formula. There was concern in those early days and everyone was curious to see whether it would take off. The plots are often so complex that you almost need a degree to untangle them. And there were fewer ad breaks in those days, so it was a big demand on the viewer to keep them interested for two hours.”

Coming in second place was Foyle’s War, followed by Line of Duty, Morse spin-off Endeavour, and Happy Valley.

Here’s the top 20 in full:

  1.  Inspector Morse (1987-2000)
  2.  Foyle’s War (2002-15)
  3.  Line of Duty (2012-)
  4.  Endeavour (2012)
  5.  Happy Valley (2014-)
  6.  Vera (2011-)
  7.  Miss Marple (1984-1992)
  8.  Agatha Christie’s Poirot (1989-2013)
  9.  Shetland (2013-)
  10.  A Touch of Frost (1992-2010)
  11.  Midsomer Murders (1997-)
  12.  Lewis (2006-2015)
  13.  Prime Suspect (1991-2006)
  14.  New Tricks (2003-2015)
  15.  Broadchurch (2013-17)
  16.  Inspector George Gently (2006-17)
  17.  Life on Mars (2006-7)
  18.  Scott & Bailey (2011-16)
  19.  Taggart (1985-2010)
  20.  Strike (2017-)

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