Sunday, September 23, 2007
Bobby, Alex, Tommy, and Barbara
As a longtime fan of the Mystery! series and the Law & Order franchise, I must report I have detected a striking parallel between beloved police duos on both sides of the Atlantic: Barbara Havers of The Inspector Lynley Mysteries is the British Alex Eames, of Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Or another way to look at it, Kathryn Erbe is Sharon Small’s American cousin.
For those who don’t know, Havers is the Detective Sergeant Lewis to DI Thomas Lynley (I assume everyone can navigate from Morse). But more importantly, she has the delicate bone structure, flattish hair, sartorial taste, and strong, quiet delivery of our old friend Eames.
Each woman is the centering partner of the detecting duo (and each has evolved her look over seasons, from short to long hair).
As we know, Eames plays Watson to Goren’s quirky brilliance; with the Brit set, it is more a class balance. Lynley is the 8th Earl of Asherton, and Havers is pure working class. But they easily follow each other’s leaps in intuitive thinking, and that’s what drives the procedural.
Eames and Goren are not personally close, and aren’t drawn to each other romantically, fanfic notwithstanding. There is more personal intersection between Havers and Lynley-—he redecorates her mother’s house after she enters a home so that Barbara can sell it, and although he marries Helen, he keeps being drawn back to Havers in various ways.
We enjoy how Eames keeps pace with Goren, although I wish she were given more than little Orbach-like pun pronouncements. Still, she is a very satisfying foil to the idiosyncratic detective. She can reach him in a place where others can’t—and isn’t that what we love about partners? Police partners have the ultimate work marriage, and episodic television—with its reveal over time like RL and in-our-living-room intimacy—can be a stronger medium for presenting the interplay between two people than film.
Havers is a more rounded character than Eames. For instance, we see both she and Lynley, briefly, struggling to date. She has a reputation for being difficult to get along with, but the fact is she doesn’t want to get along with idiots. Her personal struggles are more visible than Eames, as she swaddles herself in large formless, colorless coats.
The Inspector Lynley Mysteries are based on the novels of American Elizabeth George—the early seasons were adaptations, then scripts were written for the series straight out. The stories are covering all the English bases: country villages, boarding schools, Parliament, the aristocracy, cool British cars cars. Lynley has not been picked up for a new season, although there is a fan effort afoot to bring it back.
I would love to see a crossover episode where a case brings Eames and Goren to Britannia and into DI Lynley’s juridiction. I think the Erbe/Small scenes would be great television all around, fascinating in the doubleness of it all. The Lynley/Goren interplay could go in many creative directions.
We all know about the great L&O/Homicide crossover episodes, but don’t forget that Columbo got to go to London and meet up with Bernard Fox, Honor Blackman, and Richard Baseheart, so there is a television precedent. Maybe I can find an e-mail address for Dick Wolf somewhere.