By CHRISTOPHER STEVENS REVIEWS FOR THE DAILY MAIL
There’s a whole sub-division of the internet devoted to something known as ‘shipping’, where fans depict their favourite pop stars and movie characters entwined in romantic relationships.
The internet’s an odd place, but it’s a fair bet that no one has expended much energy on imagining young Sergeant Morse and his matey rival Sergeant Strange cuddled up together by a roaring fire.
Playful as ever, Endeavour (ITV) returned with the two coppers facing each other uneasily over the breakfast table, both avoiding the other’s gaze, like embarrassed colleagues after an office party has led to an unplanned fling.
To tease us a bit more, a glance at Morse’s desk calendar told us this was April 1, 1968.
But no fooling — Morse (Shaun Evans) really has moved in with the stolid Strange (Sean Rigby), to halve the rent while they both save for mortgage deposits.
Contrary to what millennials might believe, even buying a house 50 years ago demanded every penny you could scrape together, and then some.
Still, perhaps there’s hope for these two as a couple. Strange has even started leaving a bowl of shepherd’s pie in the oven for his flatmate when he gets home.
Now in its fifth series, this superlative murder-mystery drama excels because its characters are deep and real, not anonymous parts in a kit that writers can swap in and out.
Other long-running crime shows, such as Silent Witness or New Tricks, could replace anyone and barely notice — but not Endeavour.
Best of the lot is world-weary DI Fred Thursday, a man on first-name terms with every criminal in Oxford, yet utterly incorruptible.
In a less subtle show, Thursday would be a two-dimensional oaf, a prop and dogsbody whose chief job is to applaud when his young protege catches the killer.
But with the brilliant Roger Allam in the role, Thursday is the emotional heart of the drama.
We admire Morse, but we love his boss, a good man crushed by the weight of things he has seen. His verdict on three years in the vice squad — ‘no job for a family man’ — could have been trite.
Allam made it sound tragic.
Endeavour is also the wittiest crime show on TV.
It’s clever, of course: we expect the crossword clues, the classical allusions and the donnish jokes.
The scripts deliver much more than that — including, this time, a running gag about a Pink Panther-style jewel thief called the Shadow, and a ladies’ man called Fancy who joined the police, he claims, ‘for the social life and the crumpet’.
The look of contemptuous disgust at that on Morse’s face was a perfect echo of John Thaw.