Inspector Morse (1987–2000)
4 user 1 critic

Happy Families 

The head of a wealthy but dysfunctional family is found bludgeoned to death in the family estate as Morse is forced to deal with the resultant media frenzy.



(characters), (as Daniel Boyle)

On Disc

at Amazon




Episode cast overview, first billed only:
... Chief Inspector Morse
... Detective Sergeant Lewis
Sukie Smith ... Lorraine
... Margaret Cliff
... James Balcombe
George Raistrick ... Sir John Balcombe
... Harry Balcombe
Andrew Ray ... Alfred Rydale
... Lady Emily Balcombe
Mark Draper ... Constable
... Billy
... Chas
Liz Kettle ... WPC (as Elizabeth Kettle)
... Superintendent Holdsby
Tony Guilfoyle ... Journalist One


Morse and Lewis investigate the murder of wealthy industrialist Sir John Balcombe. There is little love lost in the Balcombe family and no great remorse when Sir John is found dead, obviously bludgeoned to death. The dead man's wife and two sons all seem worried about other things. To Morse's annoyance, there is a great deal of media coverage, some of it quite personal. He also comes under pressure from his superior, Chief Supt. Alun Armstrong, to produce results. When a second murder occurs on the Balcombe estate, Morse begins to focus on the family's history and learns that Mrs. Balcombe has a little known secret in her past. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Mystery





Release Date:

11 March 1992 (UK)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


During the filming of Colin Dexter's cameo role as a tramp, filmed from the top of the Carfax tower, a real down-and-out approached him, grabbed his bottle of "meths" and ran off - only to find that it contained just water. See more »


[the pathologist is examining a second body, found with a chisel embedded in it The first body was murdered with a stone mason's hammer]
Pathologist: Bring in any more and we'll soon have a full kit of tools.
See more »

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User Reviews

One of the more complex Morse episodes, and a fine one it is too.
7 July 2009 | by See all my reviews

Happy Families is a wonderful entry of the much-loved detective series, and actually one of my favourites. John Thaw and Kevin Whately maintain their usual standard of acting, which is nothing short of perfection, particularly Thaw. I know Thaw wasn't the typical Hollywood looker, but his amazing acting ability was what touched people most, and when he died, Britain did lose a great actor, and even that word doesn't do justice to the talent the man had. The script and the plot are excellent, full of complex issues, like Morse's persecution with the press. The camera-work is very slick, and the final solution, while not the most ingenious of the Morse episodes was still clever and entirely unpredictable. I also liked the supporting actors, especially Martin Clunes, in definitely one of his better and more understated performances, but the performances of Anna Massey, Allun Armstrong and Gwen Taylor also impress, and Rupert Graves seems to be enjoying himself as the ruthless newspaper man. All in all, a very complex mystery, developed into a very well-done and intelligent episode. 10/10 Bethany Cox.

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