"Perhaps it's my affection for England - a love that makes my wife roll her eyes - that causes me to have a higher regard for BBC and ITV small screen productions than those of America, which seem so crass in comparison. So many of the former seem uncommonly funny, intelligent, or both. FOYLE'S WAR is an uncommonly intelligent detective drama, a period piece set on England's south coast in 1940. And, to keep the record straight, my wife's dedication to this series is at least as pronounced as mine, if not more so.
Michael Kitchen is Detective Inspector Christopher Foyle, who's ordered to remain at his post as homicide investigator for Hastings and its environs; he'd much rather be doing his bit for King and Empire fighting the Nazis across the Channel. Indeed, his son is a flying officer with the RAF. The two other series regulars are Samantha "Sam" Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks), the Women's Royal Army Corps enlistee assigned as his driver, and Paul Milner (Anthony Howell), Foyle's assistant inspector recently returned to home front duty after being wounded with the Army during the disastrous British invasion of Norway.
In Series One,the murders occur in contexts that include sexual harassment, anti-semitism, police brutality, local jingoism, sabotage, and conscientious objection - all set against a backdrop of Luftwaffe bombing raids and the fear of imminent amphibious invasion by the German Wehrmacht.
The character of Foyle - intelligent, perceptive, reserved, compassionate, wounded by his wife's recent death, worried for his son's safety - epitomizes the phrase "still waters run deep." The viewer embarks into each episode wondering what new layer of Foyle's persona will be revealed. (Not to give too much away, but I've just seen the first episode of Series Two, which gives evidence of an old and tragic love affair involving Foyle and a now-married gentlewoman.) And the evolution of the relationship between Foyle and the occasionally cheeky Sam is one of the major delights of the miniseries as the latter proves she's smart, intuitive, and potentially more useful than just a lowly chauffeur.
The various murders investigated by the trio are never straightforward, but involve clever plot twists and hidden motives, the solutions to which silently gestate in the Inspector's mind before being revealed at the end of the story, much like the Sherlock Holmes mysteries of old.
There are, of course, uneven moments to Series One which allow for only four stars. I trust, as the show matures, that it will only get better. The areas that need no improvement are the period costuming, props and sets, all of which are superbly done and a delight to an Anglophile. "
Count this for six stars at least
Irreverent | La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA | 05/08/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a worthy new addition to the best British mystery series -- heavy praise from me. As a red-eyed fan of Morse, Dalgliesh, Poirot, Holmes (Brett), Smiley, Wimsey, etc., I am picky, having hosed off Oscar(R) winners and sequel spawners with a couple of stars and a flood of sarcasm. However, my only misgivings about the five-star award to this (thank heaven only the first) "Foyle's War" set is that Amazon.com would not allow me to give it all the stars it merits. I especially like its Britain -- no London / manorial ambience: Hitler lurks 30 miles across the Channel washing at our feet, the Battle of Britain has yet to be won, the Yanks not yet "overpaid, oversexed, and over here." At any time, a storm of Nazi bombs, naval gunfire, and assault troops could smash into the deceptively tranquil seaside setting, making the visit from William the Conqueror 874 years earlier seem like a romp in the meadow. Foyle is recently widowed, and must also solve cases not only amid the chaos of the Dunkirk rescue and attempts to set up coastal defenses, but also knowing that his son is one of the outnumbered pilots keeping the Nazi storm offshore, even falsely accused by a dishonest superior in one episode. Foyle is human, doesn't drive(!) and is not delighted that his driver Sam turns out to be a Samantha -- until she conks a felon escaping him. Kitchen and Weeks are perfect, with Weeks's heroic status multiplied by learning from the DVD extras that she DID OVER ONE HUNDRED TAKES of eating the same sandwich and still made it look like her first bite. Too bad we so seldom find actors as uniformly marvelous as in British productions. I will expand no more on the excellent reviews by others who appreciated this series, except to agree most enthusiastically. This is not only a superb mystery series, but an excellent reminder, in a setting not well-known in the US, of the courage and determination that the ordinary Brits found among their sometimes lovable quirks at a time when they stood alone as others caved in to Hitler. The technological quality of the DVD's is superb. These great British TV series are reason enough to stay with the 4:3 format and leave wide screens to those whose taste has sunk to (or never rose above) Hollywood."
A great new mystery series
Irreverent | 03/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Fans of Inspector Morse who are still mourning the death of John Thaw will find this series a satisfying replacement, which was the intent of the British television moguls who first televised it. Like Morse, Kitchen's Foyle is a man of many layers, silent when others would be losing it. Both of his 'sidekicks' are engaging, with problems of their own (though neither replaces 'Robby', who was Morse's Greek chorus). What makes this series unique is how it brings World War II to life. The second episode, 'The White Feather', is striking in its topicality - the pacifists vs. those who see war as inevitable. In the light of what we know now about Hitler, the outcome of our own 'war' may be seen by future generations just as differently. Foyle joins the ranks of other great British detectives and I hope he will be around a long time.For the main reviewer, Foyle is not a London detective. He lives on the coast (mainly because it would have been too expensive to try to get a 40's look in London). For those who think Foyle is 'righteous', I think we could substitute 'principled'. I was around for that generation and many of them lived by what they thought was right, not by what lie they could 'spin'. Give this series a chance and I think you'll be hooked."
For more nuanced performances watch the DVDs and not the sho
Rudolf Schmid | Kensington, CA | 09/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Series 3 of the excellent series Foyle's war was first telecast in the U.S. on PBS on 11, 18, 25 Sep. and 3 Oct. 2005 and was released on DVD on 1 Nov. 2005. However, watching the DVDs of all series is preferable if one wants to see the unexpurgated episodes. Here are the first telecast dates for series 1-4 of Foyle's war: series 1: telecast UK Oct.-Nov. 2002, US in Feb. 2003 (on Masterpiece theater, with Russell Baker introducing) series 2: telecast UK Nov.-Dec. 2003, US in July-Aug. 2004 (on Mystery) series 3: telecast UK Oct.-Nov. 2004, US in Sep.-Oct. 2005 (on Mystery) series 4: was filmed in spring 2005 and will be telecast in 2006 The PBS broadcasts in the US are edited for a 90-minute period, which includes the Mystery (or Masterpiece theater) opening-closing sequences, between-program promos, etc. This means that each episode is really only 85 minutes long at best. Region 1 DVDs (U.S., Canada), in contrast, are about 100 minutes per episode, as are the region 2 DVDs (Europe--see www.amazon.co.uk): specific values for the 4 episodes on series 2 are (for region 1) 98.5, 97.9, 98.3, 98.3 minutes. Thus in the U.S. for the proper, more nuanced episode watching Foyle's war on DVD is essential and preferable to viewing it on PBS.
Note: In a 28 Sep. 2004 interview with creator-writer Anthony Horowitz, he was asked: "Do you realise that the show is edited to pieces when it's shown on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the states?" Horowitz replied: "Yes we're very sorry about that. It's not something I'd choose to do. It's American networking. I'd advise all American fans to get their hands on the English DVDs to see them in full." I note here that American fans need only get the *American* DVDs to see the episodes in full. Also, if you first watch the shortened PBS telecast, you may later wonder about some lengthier scenes when you watch the DVDs."
Above average war-era mysteries
Steven Hellerstedt | 01/03/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Well, here's an idea that works remarkably well - set a more or less traditional mystery series in Britain during World War II, layer it with plenty of at-war ambient and wait, you won't have to wait long, for the corpses to start falling.
I'm not a great fan of mystery series. If I figure the mystery out too soon I feel cheated, if I don't figure it out I suspect they were cheating. Various recommendation engines don't recognize such subtle objections, though, and they've been throwing FOYLES' WAR at me for months. So I bit. Glad they did. Although other crimes are investigated by DCS (Detective Chief Sergeant) Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen,) for the most part this series deals with murder most foul. Anyway, as writer and creator Anthony Horowitz explains in a couple of short interviews on the dvds, the context in which the crimes take place - war-time Britain - is as important as the crimes themselves. I'm not an expert on it, but I found FOYLE'S WAR'S depiction of war-torn Britain accurate and often surprising.
The series occurs in a chronological order and each episode is pegged to a war event. For instance, the first episode, `The German Woman,' occurs shortly after the outbreak of the war, sometime soon after the fall of Norway. The next three episodes occur during and deal with the Dunkirk evacuation, the entry of Italy into the war, and the Luftwaffe assault on Britain. Context may not be everything, but it counts for a lot here, and the threat of an imminent invasion - even though we know that never happened - adds a nice layer of tension to the proceedings. As someone weaned on Winston Churchill's history of the war I found some of the other layers unusual and welcome. Conscientious objectors, xenophobes, quislings and their ilk all figure prominently in these stories. Although the mysteries were plausible, the clues sufficient, etc, etc, I have to admit I found the background stuff more fascinating than the central crimes.
Michael Kitchen plays Foyle in quiet competence mode, and his understated approach wears well. Honeysuckle Weeks plays Samatha Stewart, a service-woman who is employed as Foyle's driver. Kitchen and Weeks have a good bit of (unromantic) chemistry going, and watching the two settle into their roles was enjoyable. The third major player is Anthony Howell, who plays a wounded soldier who Foyle enlists to help him solve the seemingly endless number of baffling murders he's confronted with. All three do good justice to Horowitz's above-average scripts.