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.


Claire said...

Oh, I love it. I don't know why I haven't seen it before. CI is my favorite L&O, but Lynley is not my favorite Mystery!, though I watch it. I love the idea of a crossover. I think Lynley and Goren together in a scene would be interesting as well.

M.A.Peel said...

Claire, Lynley isn't my favorite Mystery! either, but it's grown on me since it first started showing up a couple of years ago. It's much less wooden than its earlier episodes. Spread the word, maybe we can make a crossover episode happen!

Claire said...

I agree that it's less wooden than it used to be, and I like how the interaction between the two are more natural. Maybe we should start a petition for a crossover. :)

greenfuzz said...

Lynley isn't my favorite Mystery! but it's growing on me and I like it far more than the books by Elizabeth George. Which in my opinion are not good. They are doing a better job with it now that they are completey free of the books. I totally agree with you about Havers being more of a full character than Eames. And I have to say that Lynley and Mystery! in general is less formulaic than any of the L&O series.

Tim Footman said...

Lynley expresses an odd truth about the British class system: the aristocracy and the proletariat usually get on rather well, united in their contempt for the dreadful middle classes...

wyndham said...

I'm a great fan of US series London-based episodes. The sky is usually an LA electric-blue, and the grass too verdant, the streets are all a little bit too crowded with London buses and postboxes, the homes are invariably Bel Air Tudor; there are a disproportionate number of antique dealers and - spot on, this one, I have to admit - the men from Scotland Yard are usually blithering idiots.

M.A.Peel said...

welcome greenfuzz. I was wondering how the novels are. So Elizabeth George is no Agatha Christie.

Tim, "the dreadful middle class"--hear, hear! I have a yen to pick up "Keep the Aspidistra Flying"

Mr. Wyndam, you would really appreciate seeing the actual London in the Columbo episode, Dagger of the Mind (1972). I found this great site that shows the cars that are in the show.

I don't know if the long link will come through, but the site is called Internet Movie Cars Database, IMCD--

Anonymous said...

Your post is uncanny....I have been thinking exactly this about Havers and Eames all week long. (Thanks to Wolcott for the referral. I'm kind of shocked he's never seen a Lynley mystery.)

I agree with the previous poster....the Elizabeth George books are not that great. The "Mystery" people do a great job paring them down. Although the class thing is flogged relentlessly; I wish they'd ease up on that a little. (Maybe Americans just don't understand?)

I think Goren would dislike Lynley. I think Havers would like Goren, and they'd end up on a date, and Lynley would stalk them, and Havers would have to ask, "Sir, are you following me?"

What a sad, ineffectual, bland little pixie the new CI female is (Chris Noth's partner). Whoever cast her should be spanked.

M.A.Peel said...

Anon, I meant to say something about the "sir" element in Lynley, how Havers tacks it on to most sentences. That nod to hierarchy rarely happens over here, and it's entirely unaffected in Lynley.

Jacqueline said...

Sharon Small is now on Law and Order UK ...