By Paula Hendrickson
If you’ve ever heard the term “sophomore slump,” you probably know it can refer to the second year of high school or college, a recording artist’s second album, or almost any follow-up to a first-time success. In the TV world, sophomore slumps are second seasons that don’t live up to the quality of a show’s debut season.
Two series that probably don’t need to fear a sophomore slump return at the end of June. Season two of PBS’s Endeavour, which is Masterpiece’s period prequel to the popular and long-running Inspector Morse mystery series, and CBS’s sci-fi show, Under the Dome, based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name.
Originally described as a “limited” 13-episode series, Under the Dome performed well enough last summer that midway through its first season, the show was renewed for a second season. That’s good news for viewers, since season one left us hanging. It also ended seconds from literally leaving one of the lead characters, Barbie (Mike Vogel), hanging.
Season two will pick up where the first one left off, in an episode written by King himself. He will also make a cameo appearance in the episode. (For a writer, appearing on TV may be just as scary as one of King’s horror stories.)
While Under the Dome is a serialized drama where each episode builds on the one before it, Endeavour episodes are self-contained mysteries. And as a British series, Endeavour has even shorter seasons than Under the Dome. Like its first season, season two of Endeavour will contain just four episodes. (Good news: A third season seems likely.)
As we learned in season one, Endeavour is the first name of the man who would one day be known simply as Morse, or Inspector Morse.
Five years after the 2002 death of Inspector Morse star John Thaw, Inspector Lewis picked up in a spinoff series, Inspector Lewis, centered on Morse’s one-time underling, Detective Inspector Robbie Lewis (Kevin Whately) as he attempts to fill his mentor’s shoes, and in turn becomes a mentor to a younger detective.
Endeavour goes back in time to span Morse’s early years, with Shaun Evans playing the opera-loving detective back when he first started investigating murders. Perhaps the biggest compliment for Endeavour is that watching it makes you want to re-watch episodes of the original Inspector Morse. Fans of the original series and Inspector Lewis probably loved the picturesque Oxford setting as much as the riveting mysteries themselves, and there’s even more historic scenery to see on Endeavour.
If you’re looking for a sophomore slump, you won’t find it in either of these returning summer series.
• Season 2 of Endeavor starts Sunday, June 29, at 8 p.m. Central on PBS stations WTTW-Chicago and WHA-Madison.
• Season 2 of Under the Dome starts Monday, June 30, on CBS.
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the June 25-July 1, 2014, issue