Thursday, September 29, 2011

Foyle’s War (British TV Series) Starring Michael Kitchen

This award-winning series by Greenlit Productions (now part of Target Entertainment) was first shown in England in 2002, and aired in the United States in 2003 via PBS Masterpiece Theater. Created and written by Anthony Horowitz, the series is recognized for its exceptional acting and adept screenplays of plots based on real events that took place during World War II in England.

The episodes are mystery stories, with at least 2 or 3 different plots intersecting each other through different relationships and through circumstances of time and place. The chief place in the series is Hastings, a seaside town that saw a lot of action in the war because of being located right across from the European continent.

The main character is Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle, played by Michael Kitchen. Honeysuckle Weeks is his driver, played by Samantha Stewart, who is eager and thoughtful at the same time, and is just as riveting a character as Foyle’s Detective Sergeant Paul Milner, played by Anthony Howell. Milner lost his foot early on in the war, and is out of the fighting. He becomes a very capable police detective, thanks to Foyle’s careful nurturing of Milner’s talents.

What you appreciate the most is how Kitchen plays Foyle’s quiet and determined character - showing hesitation when dealt an unexpected card, yet capable of cutting to the quick in almost any situation. While reticent, Foyle is at the same time keenly aware of what feelings are being expressed. It is gratifying, in these egocentric times, to note his humility and restraint - retiring silently while a drama is played out, as when a ruined man takes his own life rather than be hanged for his crime.

While the mysteries and whodunit aspect of the series make for entertaining speculation, what impresses the viewer is how grim wartime actually was – and how it took its toll on families and futures and shook up people's ideas of what was what. Women’s roles in society were broadened by doing the work of the absent men, but they had to live with a lower rate of pay and had to keep the home fires burning - waiting perhaps four years for their loved ones to return.

Whether you care about World War II or not, the series’ acting and smooth dialogue will rope you in and make you a fan. Anthony Horowitz, the show’s creator, regretted not including a narrative explanation about the history of each story, since he spent so much time digging them up. But I believe anyone who watches the series can’t help but appreciate the depth and wisdom that Horowitz has translated into these stories, even without any historical annotation.

(The only thing I do miss is subtitles, since as a Yank those clipped English syllables can fly right by me. Luckily, there’s always the reverse button.)

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