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Television: Foyle’s War

March 20, 2015

150213_KitchenBR

Above: Sketch of actor Michael Kitchen as "Foyle" in a 8.5 x 11.5 inch Japanese Lined Journal. Pentel Brush Pen (ColorBrush) with Pigmented ink, shaded with a Colorbrush with dye-based, fugitive ink and a Niji Waterbrush. Color is all from Montana Markers (15mm tips).

When I’m stressed and want to relax I don’t listen to classical music, or Gregorian Chants, or even my Carlos Nakai Native American flute DVDs. Those are all wonderful and helpful in some ways, but now with so many issues floating around in my head (from what e-commerce solution I should go with for my online classes to how to make sure I get in the necessary doctor visits for my elderly in-laws) I need something more soothing and more engaging than those options. 

I need to watch an episode of “Foyle’s War.”

Who’s Foyle and what war is he fighting?

Foyle is widowed Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle of Hastings, Sussex England, during and just following WWII. (Some of the episodes contain a subplot about his relationship to his son who is a fighter pilot in the RAF.) The war Foyle is fighting is the war at home in England: the crimes (murder, black marketeering, bigotry, espionage, etc.) that occur on the home front during wartime. 

Foyle is played by the fabulous Michael Kitchen and it is from his portrayal of Foyle that the calmness I experience is derived. Since 2002 I’ve watched as Foyle out thought masterminds and bunglers, and aged gracefully, always with quiet demeanor, never in anyone’s face. He is the poster boy for modesty and courtesy even when facing despicable people. He uses his wits to prevail. He has a dry wit and is never mean spirited. He champions the frail and the outsider. He stands up to those in power who misuse their power. He lives simply and frugally and enjoys spending his spare time fly fishing.

He is the epitome of remaining calm and carrying on—in his case carrying on in his pursuit of justice despite how messy and murky the war has made the world. 

Kitchen often plays “calm” characters, characters who listen and understand more than they might discuss. You can see this in his portrayal of Berkeley in “Out of Africa” and in the character George Briggs he plays in “Enchanted April.”  As an actor Kitchen is able to project a sound groundedness that is so essential in the character of Foyle. His portrayal of Foyle is as much about the stillness of being in the moment as it is about action. He plays the stillness as action, and I have never seen it done better.

The way Kitchen plays Foyle from the show’s early episodes in 2002 where his face was more angelic, to the final episodes released in January where that face has aged gracefully into a full measure of compassion, it is impossible for me to not feel less stressful when I watch. 

Things do not always turn out the way they “should.” Justice and what we want and think are right are sometimes mutually exclusive. But Foyle’s demeanor reminds us that with the world in chaos around us we can be decent, kind, loyal, and demanding all at the same time. I feel calmer just seeing that model of behavior. 

I think I’ll go watch the final episode right now! (And then start rewatching from the first episode. I have to also point out that there is an excellent supporting cast of characters.)

I recommend that you watch this series. You’ll find the complete series on Acorn right now (both streaming or to purchase as a DVD set). Often it is replayed on PBS stations. It also seems to be available on Hulu right now.

  1. Reply

    LOVE Foyle…and Michael Kitchens!! Oh and Acorn!! Heading to Gatlinburg in a couple of weeks and thinking of taking the Roku with me so my parents can watch the new ones. The new ones are all so though provoking…also enjoyed the shorts about how they were made. I hope he and Honeysuckle dont stop keeping postwar Britain straight anytime soon!

    PS hurry up and decide how to monetize your classes so I can take one!!

  2. Reply

    We love Foyle and Michael Kitchen, too. He is a wonderful actor, communicates so much with such small gestures, it´s like magic. I have seen him play the silent bad guy as well, and he makes even murderers kinda likable – perhaps because he as a person projects such humanity.

  3. Reply

    You’ve managed to describe the subtle attraction of
    Michael Kitchen’s character in Foyle’s War. The new perspective on WW2 is interesting, too. Hope to take
    an online class with you.

    • Julana
    • March 20, 2015
    Reply

    We love Foyle, too. I like your distillation of the character qualities (maintained in the midst of times of massive change and new dangers) that make it so engaging. The supporting cast is wonderful. Still miss Milner. The history itself is fascinating. The writer, Anthony Horowitz, deserves a boatload of credit. When I watched, I drew hats. Loved Hilda’s.

  4. Reply

    I’ve never taken my Roku anywhere to watch elsewhere but if it means being able to watch Michael Kitchen in Folye then I might have to start.

    The shorts are fun.

    Sadly, according to the press I’ve read, these 3 episodes recently released are supposed to be the last.

    Since it was cancelled long ago and revived because of viewer interest perhaps we will get some later shows. One can always hope.

    The bookbinding class has been finished for ages and I’m into the gouache class, and several other journaling classes, but it’s collecting that darn VAT that’s holding me up. Depending on what we hear from the accountant we are going to see to talk about this issue we hope to have an answer, But sadly it’s the busiest time to see an accountant. It’s painful to be ready to go and not be able to go! Thanks for your interest!

  5. Reply

    Margaret, the puppy videos are perhaps a local cable thing. I went to one of the “recommended” sites on the Roku main page. I am sorry but I couldn’t find it again if my life depended on it. I remember it was linked to Animal Planet. So go to your main page and find the channel Animal planet and add it to your list (it was free) and then scroll around in there to find them.

    You can also add YouTube as a channel and then you can sit and watch all of YouTube on your TV. I did that because I wanted to see how my recent videos look blown up (how the resolution holds) and it works really well.

  6. Reply

    That’s right, SOOOO Much with small gestures. It is magic. Yes, he has played bad guys well too.

    I want never to meet him in person or read anything about him because I do not want to hear if he is a perfect shit in real life. I just know he can play whatever!

  7. Reply

    Patty, I don’t know where you’re writing from but for me part of the interest in the show is seeing the experience of the war in England. I hear about how it was in the US from relatives of my mom’s generation all the time. I’ve found that fascinating as well as educational and the long term relationships in the series have always been interesting.

    I hope you will take an online class in the future when they go up too! I think I have some really fun ones. I have scheduled a post coming up in the next week or so updating people on this all and letting people know what’s cooking!

  8. Reply

    Julana, I also miss Milner. I thought his character’s backstory and his way of working into the cast was great. I see why they let him be promoted up, it only makes sense, and even if you have the best boss in the world you want to move on at some point. But I do miss him. And I loved the episode where he came back when cases overlapped and he was rude to Foyle. Foyle actually got angry at the slight and not in a ego way. It was wonderful. And then they worked together. This is also real Alpha dog stuff.

    Kudos to you for drawing hats. I’m intrigued by hats and Hilda’s was one of the greats, but my heads always get misshapen when I draw a hat. (I work on it because I love sketching cowboys.)

    There is so much fun stuff in these shows. I was sad to watch the final episode the other night.

    • Julana
    • March 21, 2015
    Reply

    I was sad, too. But they did a beautiful job.

    • Julana
    • March 21, 2015
    Reply

    Yes, that Milner/Foyle shift in relationship was given such a wonderful human complexity.

    • Larry
    • March 21, 2015
    Reply

    >>Foyle often plays the quiet rolls….
    But then there his wonderful roll of Dr. Crane in “Reckless”! Anything but. 🙂 Highly recommended as a “foil” to his quiet rolls, and it is great to see him in a comedy.

  9. Reply

    Larry do you mean “Reckless” from 2014— that is here on IMBd?

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2734804/

    I haven’t watched this show because I find the male actor annoying. A quick scan of the actors list for it didn’t come up with Kitchen.

    Could you please sen a link to the project you’re referring to? Thanks so much.

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