Foyle's War - Series 2

The Guardian
; The Ratings; November 17, 2003

The Guardian
; London (UK); November17, 2003; Nancy Banks-Smith

Mail on Sunday
; London (UK): November 23, 2003; Jaci Stephens; My lessons in lust

The Guardian
; The Ratings; November 23, 2003

Daily Mail
; London (UK); November 24, 2003; Peter Paterson; Historically incorrect

The Guardian; The Ratings; November 17, 2003;

Sunday evening's drama clash of the titans was easily won by ITV, with 8.5 million watching the first of a new series of popular wartime detective series Foyle's War. But BBC1's Charles II - the Power and the Passion held its own in the face of strong competition, watched by 6.1 million people and taking a 23% share of the viewing. Foyle's War, which brought in audiences of around 10 million viewers in its first series, enjoyed a strong lead-in from ITV's popular medical drama The Royal, which had nearly 9 million viewers. But it suffered from a strong competition on the four main terrestrial channels, with BBC2's latest Louis Theroux outing - Louis, Martin and Michael - pulling in 3.1 million viewers at 9pm. Channel 4 was the weakest performer with Sex before 16: Why the Law is Failing, the start of a new season of programmes exploring the world of teenagers.

The Guardian; November 17, 2003; Nancy Banks-Smith

Here is a big box of chocs for anyone who likes boxed chocolates. Charles II - The Power and the Passion (BBC1, Sunday) often looks luscious, partly because it was filmed in an old Daewoo factory outside Prague, which cried out for a bit of creative paintwork. However, as I admired the set, I was reminded of Harry Cohn's remark to a set designer. If, while Clark Gable and Myrna Loy were making out, anyone was looking at the mantepiece then he, Harry, would be (you have to clean up Cohn as you go along) in a bit of bother. This decorative box contains an attractively unwrapped selection of mistresses though, unexpectedly, last night's little wow was Charles's wife, Catharine of Braganza (Shirley Henderson), with her straight-shooting eyes under a wig that looked as if an alien had landed. Catharine, apparently, brought us tea and Tangiers. So what happened to Tangiers? Incidentally, the etiquette adviser on the payroll should have insisted that Charles stood up to greet his bride. He was always gentlemanly, if not exactly a gentleman. To haul Charles into the 21st century by his hair, he is shown as haunted by his father's execution, a prey to blood-splattered nightmares. I think it fairly fair to say that no king in our history has stood in less need of the Samaritans than Charles II. He seems to have been humorous, affable and easy of manner. He was in turn a man on the run, an exile and a king, and he handled all three very shrewdly. He was not ("Odds fish, what an ugly fellow I am!") as pretty as Rufus Sewell but, probably, far less likely to look wide-eyed and wounded.

Foyle's War (ITV1, Sunday) is another period piece. Foyle is one of those exquisitely decent, deeply introverted, excruciatingly English chaps whom Michael Kitchen plays so well by playing down. He seems to materialise rather than arrive, like a little cloud in a trilby. Sometimes, in the throes of thought, he may wear a slightly squeezed look as if pressing an inch of inspiration from the end of the tube. It's a lovely bit of minimalism. He is a detective chief inspector on the south coast in 1940. I am in the position - and I don't recommend it - of knowing what 1940 looked like. I will only mention that trilbys were worn with the brim up at the back. Dammit, man, we're not colonials. Foyle wears his trilby perfectly straight on his head, as if it had been carefully lowered with shouted instructions from a crane. The tilt of the hat was the only individuality permitted men then and Kitchen is careful to allow himself none at all. Foyle has had one pure and star-crossed romance, so Brief Encounter in tone that even his lost love, who turns up to fan the embers in a ladylike way, says she sounds like something out of Noel Coward. There is a general sense of quiet desperation. The doctor and his wife who do not speak. The cheated inventor drinking secretly in his garden shed. It is a gently flowing, thoughtful series and beautifully acted. Pre-war quality, as they used to say then. Foyle's War runs for two hours, which is a testing length on television, but it contains three linked stories. Petty looting from bombed buildings ("As if Hitler wasn't enough, we've got the likes of you!"); a German spy who ill-advisedly tries to buy a pint at the Dog and Duck at 10am ("No knowledge of the licensing laws?" "Exactly. We went round there and arrested him."); and a man shot dead on the beach ("Do you," asks the spy, "investigate murder in a time of war?") That is precisely what Foyle does. A decent man preserving the decencies in indecent times. By the way, the penalty for looting a coin collection, ordering a pint in a German accent and shooting someone in cold blood was the same. Death. So you might as well shoot somebody.

Mail on Sunday
; London (UK): November 23, 2003; Jaci Stephens; My lessons in lust

There was no sex in Foyle's War, which was a shame, because the thinking woman's crumpet Michael Kitchen was in it. But as Christopher Foyle, he has loftier things on his mind. The first story in the new series saw him try to unravel the mystery surrounding a body found on a beach. Howard Paige (Henry Goodman) turned out to be the murderer, but was going to get away with it because he had a Home Office minder who outranked Foyle. The detective vowed that one day, somehow, he would get him. 'You're not escaping justice, merely postponing it,' he said.

No one can deliver these resounding moral statements quite like Kitchen, and there are plenty of them in the script, lending it a weight that many detective series lack. There is both an elegance and strength to the character that Kitchen conveys with apparent effortlessness, and he is never less than a joy to watch.

The Guardian; The Ratings; November 23, 2003;

Britain's enduring fascination with US president John F Kennedy 40 years after his shocking murder was proven once again last night, when BBC2 documentary The Kennedy Assassination attracted nearly 5 million viewers. The Kennedy Assassination: Beyond Conspiracy, which was narrated by Gavin Esler, used the latest computer technology to examine Abraham Zapruder's amateur film of the shooting and to reconstruct the crime scene in Dallas.

BBC2 had 4.9 million viewers - a 19% audience share - while the documentary was being transmitted between 9pm and 10.30pm, according to unofficial overnights.

Embarrassingly for BBC1, the Kennedy documentary was more popular than the second episode of costume drama Charles II: the Power and the Passion, which had to settle for 4.2 million viewers from 9pm.

Over on ITV1 second world war detective drama Foyle's War continued its successful run, attracting 8.3 million viewers and a 34% audience share between 9pm and 11pm.

Daily Mail; London (UK); November 24, 2003; Peter Paterson; Historically incorrect

Foyle's War (ITV1); The First World War (C4); Rugby World Cup Final (ITV1) NOTIONS of political correctness widely accepted these days were introduced to a 60-year-old setting in last night's Foyle's War. As if, with the country standing alone against the might of Nazi Germany in 1940, everyone was really concerned about racism and homophobia. It is arrogant to think 21stcentury patterns of behaviour can be applied retrospectively to those far-off times. It's no good pretending prejudices against homosexuals or the Irish - the two issues raised - were taboos to our grandfathers as much as ourselves. Had it been so, there would have been no need for the decades of campaigning by antiracist and gay rights campaigners to change the law and people's attitudes.

On the basis of Anthony Horowitz and Michael Hall's story, Among The Few, Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle of the Hastings police (Michael Kitchen) was indistinguishable in attitude from such modern equivalents as Superintendent Jane Tennison or Inspector Jack Frost. But there were no tribunals in 1940 awarding compensation for racially or sexually wounding remarks. And it certainly wasn't a policeman's job to arrest anyone for disparaging comments about the Irish or gays (the latter a term that meant something entirely different back then). The IRA was letting off bombs on mainland Britain right up to and beyond the onset of World War II, so it would be quite natural for Foyle to assume a bomb left in a fuel depot came from that source. Particularly as there was a suspicious Irishman working on a temporary building job, who had twice been questioned by Special Branch after IRA bombs killed people in Coventry and London. Instead, the superintendent seemed at pains to reach an entirely different conclusion, suspecting (rightly, as it happened - but that's what the modern authors wanted) that the bomb was nothing to do with the IRA. A group of racketeers stealing petrol from the depot were guilty. So, apparently, it wasn't the reality of IRA bombs we had to worry about in 1940 (in addition to the German bombardment), but those planted by spivs and criminals.

Nor was Horowitz and Hall's image of the Few of the title, the fighter pilots of the Battle of Britain, anything like the picture most of us hold. The ones we saw, including Foyle's own son, Andrew (Julian Ovenden), referred to the Irish as 'bog-dwellers' and fought Irish workers in a nightclub. They were enemies of political correctness. Hauled up before his commanding officer, young Foyle justified his prejudice on the grounds that the Irish government - neutral in the war - had barred its ports to the Royal Navy, thus increasing the losses to Allied convoys in the Atlantic. PC before the concept was invented, the CO stoutly pointed out that thousands of Irishmen were fighting on our side. Worse, the Few were also hostile, so we gathered, to homosexuality. Andrew's best chum, Rex Talbot (Mark Umbers), was so terrified he would be unmasked as gay that he volunteered as prime suspect when his supposed girlfriend, Connie (Lisa Kay) - the liaison was unconsummated - was found dead. He insisted it was an accident, the girl falling down the stairs during a row when she threatened to expose him to his comrades. Foyle senior - part of whose job in those days would have been to arrest gays for their illegal sexual practices - took a pragmatic view. Instead of charging Rex with murder - at a time when the penalty was death - he allowed him to fly one more mission, from which, of course, he failed to return, thus neatly solving the problem. The unfortunate Rex's final request was that Foyle should tell his friends that Rex killed Connie because she was having his unwanted baby (the father was actually a black marketeer). So we were supposed to believe Rex would prefer to be remembered for this shame than the truthful but unbearable alternative.

This silly story suggested to me that Foyle's War, which is meant to take us back to a grim, glorious, but very different age, had really lost the plot.

Many thanks to Liz for digging out these reviews.