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Michael Kitchen as Christopher Foyle
Michael Kitchen as Christopher Foyle

It may be the best dramatic show, though low-key and without much explosive special effects, on television. But now we hear its run is ending.

We’re talking about Foyle’s War, the British series that many see on Public Broadcasting stations, and is also available through streaming on Netflix.

It’s had a 13-year run, in seven different series through the years, but now has announced that the season recently seen in England, in January, will be the last. It is released through Acorn Television (via Netflix already, and eventually with the last episodes on PBS, seen here on Monday nights).

What makes Foyle’s War so good are two elements: the acting of the key character, Michael Kitchen as Christopher Foyle, and the spot-on writing of the creator and author of the show, Anthony Horowitz.

Kitchen (right) portrays a police inspector in the seaside town of Hastings on the English coast during the period 1940-47. (He yearns to be in the military for World War II, though others feel he is of more use where he is.) He has created a character of immense depth, not through theatrics, but through as much as anything, his mannerisms. He says little, often uses one or two words to convey his thoughts, creates the illusion that he keeps his mind working, and that he sees much more than what his audience sees. Even his slight nod of the head, or grimace, or eye contact, seems to speak loudly to the audience. Through it all, the Christopher Foyle persona is steady-at-the-helm, alert to many aspects going in each drama, and always a man of great intelligence and integrity.

What Anthony Horowitz has done to realize and depict the conditions in Britain during and after World War II, paying close attention to the detail of such items as gas rationing (and smuggling) in England during the war; the German attacks on London by bombings and the horrible situations that this created; and such incidents as possible infiltration of German spies into the day-to-day activities even in the English countryside.

Many Americans today do not really understand in depth the desperation that the English went through during those days, especially before the United States entered the war in late 1941. Horowitz’s effort at “historical accuracy” has earned commendations, while his relatively-tight scripts and attention to detail lends credence to the series.

Recognize that this series has a 13-year history. When you go back and play the series in a short period of time (via Netflix), you literally see the Foyle character age. After all, Kitchen was 53 years old when the series began, and today, at 66, there are more lines around his face. He still wears the hat square on head, with his long overcoat, but he has obviously grown older. Happily, his essential make-up and moral fiber have remained firmly-rooted; if anything, he has only become more stalwart.

All this high quality we have seen on screen in Foyle’s War is done so well that it makes viewers want to watch more episodes.

Perhaps the most distinctive elements of the series is the relatively low-keyed style of the show, his taciturnity, and Foyle’s frank conversations with wrong-doers, his staff and even his superiors. We need more presentations on television with the depth of character of a Christopher Foyle. But soon he will be on the air no longer.

“Pity,” as he would say.

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Editor's note: This story originally appeared at GwinnettForum.com.
Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack is a native Georgian and veteran newspaperman. He published the weekly Wayne County Press for 12 years; was for 13 years the vice president and general manager of Gwinnett Daily News, and for 13 years was associate publisher of the Gwinnett section of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He now publishes, in retirement, Web sites on Gwinnett County, http://www.gwinnettforum.com, and Georgia news, http://www.georgiaclips.com.