Morse voted best British TV crime drama

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only'Mandatory Credit: Photo by ITV/REX/Shutterstock (511200at)'KEVIN WHATELY AND JOHN THAW WITH JAGUAR CAR''INSPECTOR MORSE' - TV SERIES
No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only'Mandatory Credit: Photo by ITV/REX/Shutterstock (511200at)'KEVIN WHATELY AND JOHN THAW WITH JAGUAR CAR''INSPECTOR MORSE' - TV SERIES
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Inspector Morse has been voted the best British crime drama television series of all time by readers of listings magazine and website Radio Times

The Oxford-set ITV series, which starred the late John Thaw as author Colin Dexter’s real ale drinking detective, topped the list of 50 favourite programmes.

Foyle’s War finished in second place, while the rest of the top five was made up of shows that are currently running.

The BBC’s Line Of Duty was third, Morse prequel series Endeavour finished in fourth and Bafta-winning Happy Valley was fifth.

Shetland, created by author Ann Cleeves and starring Douglas Henshall, came in at number nine. Agatha Christie was well represented, with Miss Marple at 7 and Poirot at 8. A Touch Of Frost rounded off the top ten.

Actor Kevin Whately starred alongside Thaw as Morse’s sidekick, Detective Sergeant Robert Lewis, between 1987 and 2000. He later reprised the role for spin-off series Lewis, which placed 12th in the poll.

In an interview with the magazine, Whately, 67, paid tribute to his former co-star.

He said: “John was a very shy man, as I was. So it took a long time to get his trust. We ended up sharing a caravan on set and there were downsides to that because John smoked 80 fags a day. But it meant that this lovely relationship could gradually evolve.

“I adored John – he was a fantastic raconteur and a great leader. He could lead a cast and crew like nobody I’d ever seen before.

“And he taught me so much. I’d just come off Auf Wiedersehen Pet and we’d all been so ill-disciplined and inexperienced on that show. So John instilled discipline in me. First, he made sure I wasn’t standing in his light, which was my main crime. But he was fabulous to work with.”

Whately said he was astonished at the enduring popularity of Inspector Morse and the subsequent series it has inspired. He said: “I think 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 these supercilious Oxford brains.

“To be honest, I was surprised by Lewis’ success because I always thought of him as a sounding board for Morse. I didn’t think it was a good idea to spin him off at all, but I was persuaded to do it and it took off.

“I like Endeavour a lot because it’s hung on actual historical events as it goes through the Sixties. And they’ve upped their budgets since we finished on Lewis, so the episodes look really good.

“It’s amazing. Colin Dexter created a whole industry with Inspector Morse.”

At its ratings peak in the mid-1990s, Inspector Morse attracted an audience of 18 million viewers. ITV has estimated that the programme has been seen by one billion people across 200 countries.

Prime Suspect, starring Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison, came in at 13. Glasgow-set series Taggart came in at 19 and Strike, based on the novels by J K Rowling as Robert Galbraith), was 20th.

Rebus, from the novels by Ian Rankin, came in at 32. Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, was at 22.