A righteous 'Endeavour'

"Endeavour," Season 2, resumes Sunday, with Shaun Evans as the young Endeavour Morse (left) and Roger Allam as Detective Inspector Friday.
"Endeavour," Season 2, resumes Sunday, with Shaun Evans as the young Endeavour Morse (left) and Roger Allam as Detective Inspector Friday. (ITV for Masterpiece)
Posted: June 29, 2014

PBS will roll out three British imports Sunday, including the Season 2 premiere of the superb murder mystery set in the 1960s, Endeavour.

The other two shows both star Derek Jacobi - he returns in the romantic dramedy Last Tango in Halifax and stars in the brand-new sitcom Vicious.

Vicious, but not funny

Jacobi, one of our greatest Shakespearean thesps, in a sitcom? Yep.

And try this: He costars with that other master of stage and screen, Ian McKellen. The very absurdity of the situation and the stellar lineup are bound to draw curious viewers.

They'll be disappointed.

A static, stagey one-set show, Vicious, which airs at 10:30 p.m. on WHYY TV12, is about two long-term lovers who share a swank if rather lived-in flat in London.

McKellen, 75, is Freddie Thornhill, an actor whose intense narcissism compensates for a lackluster career. Jacobi, also 75, plays Stuart Bixby, a one-time bartender and would-be model who has ridden Freddie's coattails.

The couple's intense youthful passion has transformed after half a century into a passion for bickering. That, essentially, is the show in a nutshell: the actors lobbing a series of put-downs, zingers, accusations, and insults - always liberally peppered with sexual innuendos - at each other.

The show's only other regulars, longtime friend Violet (Frances de la Tour) and a young hot neighbor named Ash (Iwan Rheon), drop in from time to time to referee.

Vicious is Two and a Half Men for pensioners. Some of the jokes admittedly are very funny, but they are ruined by a hideous laugh track. Why on earth would these two actors stand for a laugh track? A mystery for the ages.

Morse, the younger

Shaun Evans continues his remarkable performance as young police detective Endeavour Morse in a second outing of Masterpiece Mystery!'s thoroughly absorbing Endeavour, which premieres at 9 p.m. with the first of four feature-length mysteries.

Set in the mid-1960s, Endeavour is a prequel of sorts to Inspector Morse, a widely beloved adaptation of author Colin Dexter's novels that starred John Thaw as a brooding, middle-aged police detective. An almost fanatical devotee of opera and classical music, the middle-aged Morse was a brilliant thinker who never finished his Oxford education. A brooder, he was wary of women and endlessly fascinated by them - his heart had yet to mend from an intense love affair during college. Endeavour shows us how he became a great detective and a thoroughly lovable if deeply damaged man.

'Last Tango' redux

Last season, Last Tango in Halifax made for a delightful addition to the TV roster with its fresh, touching storyline about a widowed man and woman in their 70s who pursue a romance despite the disapproval of their children and grandchildren.

The story ended with a cliffhanger: Alan (Jacobi) and Celia (Anne Reid) had a fight, but before they could make up, Alan had a heart attack.

Jacobi and Reid are brilliant, but the show, which premieres at 8 p.m., has lost its novelty. One wonders why the series needs to continue beyond the inevitable reconciliation and wedding - which come early in the season opener.


TV REVIEWS

Last Tango in Halifax

8 p.m. Sunday on WHYY TV12

Masterpiece Mystery!: Endeavour

9 p.m. Sunday on WHYY TV12

Vicious

10:30 p.m. Sunday on WHYY TV12


tirdad@phillynews.com

215-854-2736

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