Sometimes I contemplate an alternate timeline where "Sherlock" never existed and wonder whether "Endeavour" and its star Shaun Evans may have claimed whatever secret chamber in our hearts that Benedict Cumberbatch's detective conquered.

The two detectives have a few things in common, after all.

Sherlock Holmes and Endeavour Morse are two of many crime-solvers adapted from literature featured under the "Masterpiece Mystery!" tent recently interpreted as younger men in their prime.

Each has a long relationship with television, although Holmes' overcoat has been worn by an assortment of actors.

Morse is associated with two: Evans and the late John Thaw, who originated the character in "Inspector Morse," which aired from 1987 through 1993, and was revived for five special installments that ran between 1995 and 2000.

Combined, they've ensured Endeavour Morse has been with U.K. and American TV audiences in some guise for more than 30 years, and longer for readers who forged a loyalty to the character in Colin Dexter's books.

Evans, however, achieves something we don't often see in many modern detectives, in that both creates and resolves the mystery of how Thaw's flinty, hard-drinking, arrogant-yet-lovable detective came to be.

"Endeavour" is at its best when it draws our focus to solving the puzzle of its main character, a mission into which Evans' performance draws us more deeply with each new season.

His 1960s-era Morse is resilient, but not a hard case; refined, but put off by popular diversions that excite the average person.

One of the funnier turns in the eighth season shows the Detective Sergeant visibly suffering through a live game show taping that he never would have chosen to endure if not for an assignment.