Even in the quiet, pastoral countryside along Britain's south coast, World War II is looming in the spring and summer of 1940. No wonder detective chief inspector Christopher Foyle wants to be defending his country in the armed forces. But his superiors say no: He is needed doing just what he's doing on the home front, where an invasion by the German army is expected any day.
Don't miss "Foyle's War," a perfect melding of good, old-fashioned murder mysteries with the specificity of Britain as it braced itself for an unimaginable conflict.
Starting this week, "Masterpiece Theatre" presents four of these delicious tales, each of them free-standing yet defiantly moving forward through those anxious months.
First up: Anti-Nazi feeling seem to have sparked a local murder. The German wife of a local landowner is found murdered, with a swastika carved into a nearby tree. Foyle is on the case.
Michael Kitchen ("Reckless," "Oliver Twist") stars as the quiet, upright Foyle. Honeysuckle Weeks plays his driver and would-be sidekick sleuth, while Anthony Howell is Foyle's assistant as he recovers from the loss of a leg in the war effort. And Julian Ovenden plays son Andrew Foyle, who is training as a pilot (and takes center stage in the fourth installment).
"Masterpiece Theatre" airs Sundays on PBS at 9 p.m. EST (check local listings).
Other shows to look out for:
- "Brush with Fate" traces the impact a mysterious work of art has had on the lives of its various owners, who, despite their different backgrounds, have experienced their lives' defining moments in its presence. Spanning three centuries, the saga was filmed entirely in The Netherlands. This "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentation stars Glenn Close, Ellen Burstyn and Thomas Gibson. It airs on CBS Sunday at 9 p.m.
- The virtuosity of male dancing at American Ballet Theatre today is unprecedented in the history of American ballet. In a performance documentary called "Born to be Wild," the "Dance in America" series travels home with Jose Manuel Carreno (Cuba), Angel Corella (Spain), Vladimir Malakhov (Ukraine) and Ethan Stiefel (United States), exploring these dancers' backgrounds and formal training. In addition, viewers will be treated to a work created for the four dancers by choreographer Mark Morris, set to music by Robert Schumann. It airs on PBS Monday at 10 p.m. (check local listings).
- From 1996 to 2001, Boeing and Lockheed Martin produced rival designs and prototypes for the Joint Strike Fighter, a stealthy, affordable combat plane intended for the 21st century needs of the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines. In "Battle of the X-Planes," "NOVA" goes behind the scenes to show the world's newest fighter taking shape, as Boeing and Lockheed Martin compete to win the largest contract in military history, worth $200 billion. (And awarded to Lockheed Martin in October 2001.) The film airs on PBS Tuesday at 8 p.m. (check local listings).
- For something a little different in the aeronautical realm, watch "N.T.S.B.: The Crash of Flight 323," the fictional account of an air crash investigation by the real-life National Transportation and Safety Board. Mandy Patinkin and Eric Close play investigators who rush to the crash sight of a commuter plane in the Colorado mountains. Is the crash explainable by mechanical failure, pilot error or an act of terrorism? Find out when this made-for-TV film airs on ABC Thursday at 8 p.m.