Tag: paul cantor

‘You’ve Done It Again, Lewis!’: On the Enduring Worth of ‘Inspector Morse’


There are, it seems, about a million British detective shows on offer to American audiences (about a million to the power of ten when you add in all the other European sleuthing nationalities), from heart-pumping “Luther” to the more sedate “Ms. Marple’s Mysteries.” Having grown up without cable and had 90 percent of my television-viewing experiences before high school courtesy of WGBH, I have a definite familiarity with the full range of British television offerings (“Vicar of Dibley,” “Keeping Up Appearances,” and “Waiting for God” were all household favorites), but age prevented me from ever making the acquaintance of “Inspector Morse.”

It took until halfway through high school, when I had, in a rare coup d’état, actually managed to get hold of the solitary television clicker, to see the Inspector on Netflix and my mother in no uncertain terms demanded that he disappear after half an hour. However, I was hooked. Even within the diverse range of detective dramas, Morse is a quite singular property, elaborate plotted, skillfully filmed, chock-full of more obscure references than an Umberto Eco novel, and poignant without being sappy or sentimental. A genius product of pop culture. 

The titular Inspector is himself a bit of a departure from the typical flock of Brit detectives; an aging middle-class Englishman with an Oxford education, an accent that could only have come of childhood elocution lessons, and an equal love for real ale and Wagner. John Thaw’s piercing cornflower eyes and reserved expressiveness (perhaps a contradiction in terms, but entirely appropriate when one watches him balance the manners of an Englishman “of a certain age” with his innately virulent emotions) lend an odd sort of beauty to a character who is flawed both in body and soul. His eyes are most often crinkled in a decidedly contemptuous expression and, while he is as brilliant and sensitive as the brief background suggests, he is equally capable of cruelty and vanity. Along for the ride is his much more centered DS, Robbie Lewis, a cheerful Northerner with two kids, a wife, and every day worries.

ACF Critic Series #35: Deadwood


Just in time for the 4th, here’s an odd celebration of American freedom: I talked to Paul Cantor talk about David Milch’s most famous achievement, Deadwood–the movie and the TV show. A Western, lawless, but orderly vision of America. An America with commerce but without religion, with freedom but without equality–what kind of community and what kind of justice are possible in such a situation? Something piratical, un-Puritan.

ACF Critic Series #30: The Walking Dead


Paul Cantor joins me for the second part of our conversation on his new book: Pop Culture And The Dark Side Of The American Dream: Con Men, Gangsters, Drug Lords, And Zombies. It’s time for the zombies–for the postmodern Western, The Walking Dead, from Shane to Wagon Train to our times of crisis, when we ask ourselves, could we be what we think we are without the institutions and technology that prop us up? Is American character able to withstand the test of the state of nature?

ACF Critic Series #29: Breaking Bad


Here’s my new podcast with Paul Cantor, on the Macbeth of Meth! We talk about The Dark Side Of The American Dream — go buy the book, folks. It’s about tragedy in pop culture, from Huck Finn to The Walking Dead (which we’ll get to next week). We talk about the American Dream — especially the middle-class suburban dream of the post-war era–and what happens when it doesn’t work out. Especially during troubled times, like nowadays, people turn to darker stories and are more interested in the tragic side of life. So all of a sudden mere villains ascend by the path of the anti-hero to the full status of tragic hero, trying to out-American America, so to speak.

ACF Episode #100: Tim Burton


Friends, we celebrate our 100th episode with a conversation with Paul Cantor on Tim Burton’s early movies: Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, and Ed Wood. We start, however, with the new Dumbo and Burton’s attack on Disney, television culture, celebrity, and all that… For more Cantor on Burton and other pop culture writing, here’s the book: The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture.

ACF Critic Series #22: War of the Worlds


Paul Cantor and I give you a long discussion on War of the Worlds. We start with H.G. Wells, his imaginations of great power, which were impressively prescient, and his fascination with scientific tyranny. We then move on to Orson Welles, the radio broadcast, and the myth of the great panic. Lastly, we discuss the movies from the ’50s to now: the George Pall and Steven Spielberg versions, the flying saucers variation, culminating with the great Mars Attacks! by Tim Burton.

ACF Critic Series #11: Frankenstein!


In our newest podcast, and last of the year, Prof. Paul Cantor joins me again for a discussion of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein on its 200th anniversary. We talk about Enlightenment, science, Romanticism, poetry, their insights and faults — but also the story’s posterity on the stage, in the 19th century, and in the movies in the 20th. We also cover the nearly unique spectacle of a single person creating a civilizational myth, showcasing the strange vivacity and occasional fertility of popular culture.

ACF Critic Series #9: Paul Cantor


We’re adding a new critic to the ACF podcast: America’s eminent Shakespearian, Paul Cantor! He’s a writer I admire and from whom I have learned much on Shakespeare–much to my surprise and delight, he’s getting into film criticism in a big way and he’s in the mood to talk about it. We have a long interview to offer you, the first in a series of discussions about pop culture in America. We go from Godfather to Breaking Bad, we get to super-hero movies and ancient mythic heroes–to tragedy in Greece and in Shakespeare’s England–and lots of other things about TV and movies in-between. Also, we do more than a little talking about Mark Twain. Listen and share friends, join the conversation in the comments, and read more Cantor!

Member Post


Akira Kurosawa is the most famous of the Japanese directors & one of the directors with an acknowledged, plausible claim to title, greatest director. This is a difficult thing to decide. We have to consider that & why he admired John Ford. If people who admire Kurosawa are right about him, that would suggest John Ford […]

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