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“Inspector Morse”

Perhaps the best series ever made, though others will have their favorites. “Twilight Zone” and “Twin Peaks” were right up there for me as well.

The Inspector Morse episodes ran from 1987-2000. They were based on the novels of Colin Dexter, and many were actually from the novels. John Thaw played Chief Inspector Morse of Thames Valley Police in Oxford, England. To say that Thaw was superb in this role, is actually to understate it. His may be one of the absolutely greatest series performances in television history. His assistant is Detective Sergeant Lewis, played excellently by Kevin Whately. His superior is Chief Superintendent Strange, played very well by James Grout.

The supporting casts of the two-hour shows are as good as I have ever seen. These British actors actually become their characters. The backstories are written so well, and the acting is so good, that you want to see more of the characters, even after their one episode is concluded.

The fact that the episodes are set in Oxford, means that many of the characters are academics, dons, students, speaking with upper class British accents. That certainly does not mean that there are not all sorts of bad things that some of them do. These are mostly murder mysteries, quite involving and with surprises. But there are virtually no guns, no fight scenes, little “action”; mostly intriguing personal interactions, dialogue, the solving of the mystery, and the revealing of character.

Morse is a complex person, more so than the typical police detective. He attended Oxford, but seems to have left before finishing. This might have been due to having his girlfriend snatched from him by an arrogant fellow student, whom Morse sees again about thirty years later on a case, and who does not even remember the name of the woman, earning Morse’s despairing contempt. He likes detective work, but he does not care to play the career game, and thus never makes the very highest ranks, while other less capable detectives get promoted past him. Morse has a strong sense of ethics, almost to a fault. And he does not suffer fools gladly,; he resents the advantages and manner of the very wealthy; and he refuses to compromise his principles.

Morse loves drinking good beer at pubs, classical music, and solving the London Times crossword puzzle. For him, detection is a mental challenge. He picks up clues that others don’t, because some of them require a puzzle expert’s mind. He is unorthodox, and can irritate Superintendent Strange by his stubbornness, but he solves the mysteries, though he does sometimes make mistakes in his early assessments, as anyone might. Occasionally Sergeant Lewis somewhat unexpectedly puts him on the right path.

Morse is not intensely lonely, but certainly somewhat, and he yearns for female companionship. As the stories develop, there is usually an intelligent woman involved, whom he finds attractive. He actually crosses protocol lines in that regard, though he is always shyish about it. Sometimes the interest is somewhat reciprocated, sometimes it is not, or he is even used by the woman to further her ends.

Near the end of the series, he develops a mutual relationship with a nice and intelligent woman. But there is an “Extra” segment on one of the DVDs, “The Women of Morse,” which mostly features short scenes or comments by the many wonderful female actors who played roles in the show, and some of those characters seemed more appealing. One of the most memorable is Joanna David, who plays Susan, a woman whom Morse was deeply in love with, and who cared for him, but decided to marry another man, and then briefly re-enters his life when her husband is found dead from a likely suicide.

There is an online site which asked readers which woman on the show Morse should have ended up with. There were some appealing ones to choose from, though he didn’t have a chance with most of them. I would probably pick the character played by Angela Morant in “Service For All the Dead.” Or maybe the opera singer played by Frances Barber in “The Death of the Self.”

One of the PBS stations bought the rights to the series, so that they can show an episode each week. I don’t think they are showing them all, though. I have now seen most of them multiple times, but they still make for much more enjoyable viewing than anything else out there. Scripts, dialogue, direction, acting are all brilliant. And a sense of melancholy, which, while it does not suffuse the shows, is certainly there, as if you were watching a play where there are tragic events, and you are left with a sense of lost potential or people having made the wrong choices.

The beautiful theme music was written by Barrington Pheloung. At the very end of an episode, you hear the first notes of it, and you realize that the story is over. You really are not sure until you hear the music. The stories are not just about the various suspects, but they are about Inspector Morse, and how he responds to them, and where he is left emotionally when that story is over.

I will just add that the most recent one I saw, “Last Seen Wearing,” was one that you might want to start with, if you decide to try these. The story is not dark, but it is interesting, with perfectly drawn characters. A young Elizabeth Hurley and Julia Sawalha have minor roles. Absolutely memorable is Fiona Mollison, who plays her role with perfect nuance. I wondered why she did not become a star. She was far from the only actor who played his or her role perfectly on the show, but I was so impressed to see someone who is not a major name, be so impressive. She popped up years later in “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 2.” I just wanted to write a few lines about her, as she may be my favorite female character in all of the Morse episodes, even though she was not the star in this one. Also very memorable, besides the aforementioned, are Sharon Maughan, in “Deceived by Flight,” maybe my favorite episode; and Mel Martin, in “The Secret of Bay 5B.”

Of the men, Michael Kitchen, so great in “Foyle’s War,” in the episode “Death of the Self.” Peter McEnery in “Last Seen Wearing.” Kenneth Colley in “Second Time Around.”

If you like mysteries, and if you have somehow never seen this series, I would advise that you run out and buy it, finances permitting. Would that they made series like this now. But at least they made this one.

Tax Day

That is May 17, as they extended it a month this year. Last year, it was extended to July 15.

I went to see my tax accountant last Thursday, and I learned a few things which I should have known. I had never gotten the $1200 stimulus check last April or so. I had written and called about it, even contacted my Congressman’s office; was sent forms, sent them in, got more forms, but no check. But I learned that can get a credit for it as against taxes owed, on my tax form.

I asked the accountant if she had other clients who never got their checks; and she said, “Oh, yes, they (the government) totally screwed up everything.” What a surprise. Could it be that they simply did not bother to send out some of the checks, figuring, more money for them, if people didn’t complain or had no taxes owed to defray? It would go with the rest of how they ran things.

Also, there are now apparently almost no itemized deductions for people who are not wealthy and/or corporations. I usually got small deductions for auto registration fees, charitable contributions, and the tax preparer’s fee. She said that now all one can take is the standard deduction on those things, because they are under the limit. So the only deduction I can take are medical related costs such as insurance. As you probably all know, you now can’t deduct last year’s state income taxes, which you could always do a few years ago, and which might actually have been the biggest deduction for non-wealthy people.

This is what Trump and the people who wrote the 2017 tax bill did. Do you remember when lobbyists were running in and literally adding parts to the bill just before the vote? That was a rich person’s festival, as virtually any possible deduction which they might be able to claim, was given to them, while the deductions for everyone else were virtually eliminated.

Most people did not realize that, but they will now. Apparently taxes went up slightly for poor people this year. Meanwhile, the immensely wealthy are deducting airplanes, vacations, virtually every meal they can claim as a corporate expense. Matt Gaetz was probably deducting the money he paid to “escorts.” They have made a joke out of the tax codes, stealing and grifting everywhere they can, counting on their “base” to be distracted by all the cultural issues they make up. It’s an effective con for them, and their voters never figure it out, or blame it on the other side.

I’m not complaining about my own taxes, everyone has the same legitimate complaint. The tax codes have been altered to give immense breaks to the rich, nothing to anyone else. Let these people get back in charge, and it will look like the Middle Ages, with people taking whatever silverware they have, and laying it in a pile for the king.

In other brief news, Bob Baffert, the self-proclaimed victim of cancel culture, was not at the Preakness Stakes. Neither of the two horses he trained won the race, including Medina Spirit. The results of the second drug test will be in within a week or two, and then it will be determined if the completely innocent horse is disqualified from the Kentucky Derby win, and whether Baffert is “canceled,” for breaking the rules on the amount of a particular drug that is allowed. Medina Spirit should sue him for damage to reputation!