By Natalie Tambini - Total TV Guide
It's been 30 years since John Thaw's hard-drinking Inspector Morse first captivated us, solving murders amid Oxford's gleaming spires - let alone kept us on tenterhooks to learn his first name . and as prequel Endeavour returns, fans can look out for more hat-tips to the original.
Perhaps surprisingly, Shaun Evans, 36, who plays young Endeavour, has never watched Inspector Morse and isn't keen on including nods to it. 'I might sound like a spoilsport, but I don't want [the script] to be flabby and paying homage to something I've never seen', says Shaun, in his native Liverpudlian lilt. 'Generally when I put a question mark next to something in the script, it comes back that it's a "heritage thing". For me, if it stuck out in the story it hasn't really got a place. If there are some in this series, they're so well-embedded I haven't noticed them.'
Written by Endeavour creator Russell Lewis - who also worked on Inspector Morse - the series picks up two weeks after the last ended, in late 1967. Both Endeavour and Det Insp Fred Thursday (Roger Allam) are missing Thursday's daughter, Joan, who walked away after the dramatic hostage scenes at the end of the last run. But of course neither of them are talking about it.
'It's the Sixties, so you're not saying, "Come on, Thursday, tell me how you feel" ', grins Shaun. 'Endeavour never said, "I'm in love with your daughter", so he doesn't have a chance to clear the air or know how much Thursday knows. Endeavour's always getting his heart broken - it's his go-to setting. I know myself, if that happens to you, you go out on the lash - it's happened plenty of times - so we have an opportunity to seed his drinking in and should make the most of that'.
The four-part series also ventures into the realma of Sixties' pop, featuring Downton Abbey's Michael Fox and a song specially written for the episode.
'The world we've created is very decadent and we really lucked out with the lads in the band - Michael's a great singer. We all went to the recording studio in St John's Wood - not Abbey Road [made famous by The Beatles] but the cheaper one opposite. It's just as good!'
What would classical music-loving Morse have made of pop? He hasn't got much time for it. For him, it's turgid nonsense!'
John Thaw's daughter Abigail returns as journalist Dorothea Frazil. So is Shaun tempted to watch just one of the originals? 'I don't see what benefit it would be. I want to create my own work. So I don't see the point in being reverential. That sounds very disrespectful, and I don't mean it to be. My ambition coming into this job was to reach my generation who hadn't seen it before.'
Word is that ITV is talking about six more episodes next year. 'After this series we'll get round the table and say what was good, what we could do better and how much further we're going to go', he smiles. 'If it doesn't do well they might rethink and bring Downton back!'.