“Reality” shows have plunged mainstream television into an entirely new depth of stupidity - and for television, that’s saying something. Fortunately for us, some programs defy the downward trend, and Masterpiece Theatre’s Foyle’s War is one of the best.
Foyle’s War follows Christopher Foyle during World War II in England. Germany occupies mainland Europe, and invasion seems imminent. Ordinary people carry on as best they can, but an undercurrent of desperation pulls at them, and some give in to terrible urges, including murder.
Foyle, the Detective Chief Superintendent of the Hastings police department, sees the worst of it. Denied by his superiors the right to join the armed forces, Foyle fights a different war, one that claws away at his home town. Hastings, on the south coast of England, is a likely invasion site, and its citizens must live with barbed wire, road blocks, anti-invasion exercises, and increasingly dire rumors. As crime becomes more frequent and more brutal, Foyle and his his small staff - Detective Sergeant Paul Milner and his driver Samantha “Sam” Stewart - struggle against what threatens to become anarchy.
As you may have guessed, Foyle’s War is of the mystery genre. I am not one of those “mystery persons,” but Foyle’s is so far beyond what is typical of the genre that I classify it simply as Good Stuff. This is not Murder, She Wrote. The writing is great. The acting is subtle - Michael Kitchen conveys more meaning with a single nod than most actors do with their dialog. The sets, camera work, and directing collaborate to draw the helpless viewer into WWII-era England. The result is fun television that need not be considered a guilty pleasure.
So far, four series of feature-length Foyle’s War episodes have been filmed. The first two are out on DVD now in the USA (see links below). If you have Netflix, you know what to do. The third will be released on DVD in November, but its episodes will be airing Sundays on PBS’s “Mystery!”, 11 September - 2 October. (Check your local listings to make sure you don’t miss it.) The fourth series is still in production.
If you are sick of reality television, you now know the cure.
[If you buy something via one of those links, Amazon will give me a small referral fee, approximately one zillionth of what I could have earned had I been working instead of playing around on my blog. Let that be a lesson to me.]