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Why Oxford's Most Interesting Locations Are Closely Linked to TV Detective Shows

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Oxford has been widely used as a backdrop for all types of TV shows and movies. From riotous comedies to hard-nosed detectives trying to unravel mysteries, many different types of entertainment have been filmed here. Analysing some of the best shows reveals why this city is so closely linked to Inspector Morse and his assistant.

Endeavour

Endeavour was Inspector Morse’s under-used first name and the series with this title was a prequel showing a younger version of the Inspector starting his career in Oxford. Radcliffe Camera and Bodleian Library are among the standout locations. We also see Hertford Bridge, known to locals as the Bridge of Sighs, popping up in season six in an episode titled Degüello. Turl Street is one of the many locations used, notably in Icarus from season six when a pet shop was located here.

The last episode of the third series - titled Coda- lets us see how well they set the scene in 1960s Oxford. Morse is investigating a bingo caller named Paul Marlock, which makes sense as bingo was a huge activity in many different halls across the city then. Although in-person bingo was previously a hit in Oxford, nowadays, online versions such as Rainbow Riches Slingo are more popular. This game is a cross between slots and bingo, retaining the simplicity of the bingo played in Oxford in the 60s but with a modern online approach.

Inspector Morse

The original Inspector Morse series starring John Thaw and Kevin Whately is arguably the most famous TV show ever shot here. Running for 33 episodes between 1987 and 2000, it features locations including several colleges in the city, although locations away from Oxford were also used. The massive success of Morse was cemented when Radio Times readers voted it the best British detective show of all time. 

Although many of the most memorable scenes were filmed in Oxford, Ealing in West London serves as the backdrop to many of the residential areas shown in Morse. To find the best locations easily, many tourists join Inspector Morse walking tours as a way to see Oxford through the eyes of this much-loved character.

Lewis 

The popularity of Inspector Morse led to the spinoffs Lewis and Endeavour both being filmed here. While we’ve already looked at Endeavour, Lewis is based on Morse’s assistant, Robert Lewis. In the spinoff, the character is again played by Whateley and he’s been promoted to detective inspector. 

Lewis ran for nine series, with Whateley feeling that he needed a break after spending three decades playing the character. This series ended with 33 episodes, identical to the number of episodes in the original Inspector Morse series. A look at the fifth series of Lewis reveals locations such as Corpus Christi College Chapel and St Edmund Hall. 

These three TV series have helped many of the most impressive Oxford locations gain national attention. They also ensured that millions of Brits associate these streets and buildings with the legend of Inspector Morse.  

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