FOR many TV fans he was always seen as the sidekick, but now Robbie Lewis is finally stepping out of his boss’s shadow.

Within days of the previous series of crime drama Lewis finishing, ITV has confirmed that a new series has been commissioned with production beginning by the end of the month.

This will be the seventh series of the show, which started in 2006, meaning there will have been as many series of Lewis as there were of Inspector Morse.

Jenny Cummins, a spokesman for ITV which produces the show, said: “We remain committed to Lewis.

“A further series goes into production in late June.”

Earlier this year, Oxford author Colin Dexter, who created the character of Lewis in his Inspector Morse books, hinted that the show might soon come to an end.

But viewing figures prove the show remains popular.

The first three episodes of the most recent series attracted a total audience of 6.6m people – a share of 26 per cent of the viewing public.

The previous series attracted a consolidated audience of 7.3m and the one before that 6.7m.

Visit Oxfordshire director Susi Golding said tourism brought £743m to Oxford in 2010, adding film and TV tourism accounted for a “significant” proportion of that.

She said: “It is important for Oxford because it highlights all aspects of the city and makes it an interesting place to visit.

“It is another way of raising awareness of Oxford and the fact that it is more than just the University. We have very popular Morse tours which are constantly full, and Lewis adds to that.”

The most recent episode, The Indelible Stain, broadcast on Wednesday, June 6, saw Detective Inspector Simon Morton, of Oxford CID, make a cameo appearance.

But Kevin Whately, who has been playing Inspector Robbie Lewis since 1987, told the Oxford Mail in 2010 that the character would soon reach police retirement age and would have to be pensioned off.

Stuart Scott is manager of The Head of the River pub at Folly Bridge where a scene from the most recent series was filmed.

He said: “I watch it occasionally. Having them film here is always good advertising. A couple of people have mentioned it since we appeared on the show.

“It was a bit surreal because they filmed it quite early in the morning and we had a pub full of actors drinking wine and eating food.”

A first series of Morse prequel Endeavour has also been commissioned by ITV after a one-off episode in January attracted eight million viewers. Production is set to take place in late summer with the episodes broadcast next year.

A date for the seventh series of Lewis to be broadcast is yet to be set but it will be aired sometime during 2013.