Why You Should Watch the Gripping, Character-Rich Stories of 'Endeavour'

Diane Snyder
Preview Courtesy of Jonathan Ford and Mammoth for ITV and MASTERPIECE

PBS dramas are great at reaching back through time to capture an era. But the Masterpiece Mystery! series Endeavour does so much more.

Now in Season 6, this prequel to Inspector Morse (1987–2000) transports viewers to 1960s Oxford, England, while telling gripping, character-rich stories. Writer Russell Lewis creates intricately woven 90-minute whodunits where knowledge of, say, poetry or the periodic table can break a case wide open.

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Endeavour won me over with its 2012 pilot, in which malcontent young Detective Constable Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) returns to the city where he failed as a student but will rise in the force. By his side: old-school mentor Detective Inspector Fred Thursday (Roger Allam), whose way with words is as stylish as his hat. ("Free love? In my experience, that's the most expensive kind there is.")

Their world, crackling with dark undercurrents, is free from 21st-century trappings. Data is processed by manual typewriters, psychedelic drugs are a novelty, and the moon landing is news. (The June 23 Evans-directed episode, "Apollo," takes place during that historic 1969 event.) 

(Courtesy of Jonathan Ford and Mammoth for ITV and MASTERPIECE)

I adored the original Morse, starring the late, great John Thaw, but now I prefer the origin story and its exploration of Morse's troubled personal life. I'm desperate to see a killer caught — but also to find out if Morse and Thursday's daughter, Joan (Sara Vickers), will finally declare their love … even though I know he ends up alone.

Endeavour, Season Premiere, Sunday, June 16, 9/8c, PBS (check local listings at pbs.org)