Grantchester, ITV, James Norton, Robson Green, Morven Christie PREVIEW

JAMES NORTON as Sidney Chambers and ROBSON GREEN as Geordie Keating in Grantchester
Odd couple – Geordie and Sidney (Robson Green and James Norton). Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★★

ITV: starts Monday, 6 October, 9pm

Story: It’s 1953, and just outside the Cambridgeshire village of Grantchester, local vicar Sidney Chambers officiates at the funeral of a solicitor, who committed suicide. However, after the service, glamorous Pamela reveals to Sidney that she was having an affair with the solicitor – and his death wasn’t suicide.

IS THERE ANYTHING less edgy and enticing than another dog-collar detective?

It was only last year since that the Beeb resurrected its bland, nostalgic take on GK Chesterton’s Father Brown. And does anyone have fond memories of Father Dowling or Cadfael?

Reality has intruded on these confections, so that after all the scandals of recent years Catholic priests are now most likely to be portrayed on TV and in novels as sinister figures. It is only in comedies such as Rev and Father Ted that large TV audiences have wanted to embrace religion.

James Norton as the vicar detective

So, now we have ITV’s major new drama with a vicar as its crime-solving hero. And it’s based on a

JAMES NORTON as Sidney Chambers and MORVEN CHRISTIE as Amanda Kendall in Grantchester
In love but not together – Sidney and Amanda

series of books written by James Runcie, son of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie.

My own expectations on heading to ITV headquarters in Gray’s Inn Road to see a preview of the series along with the press contingent and the show’s stars – James Norton, Robson Green and Morven Christie – were very low. I just knew it was going to be dull and twee, but with lovely Cambridgeshire scenery.

Here I must offer a contrite confession. I was wrong. Wrong and pleasantly intrigued by the mystery and characters.

Vicar and war-tested soldier

The show’s secret is that Sidney Chambers is not some bland holy man doing God’s work on behalf of the local incompetent police force. There’s more to him.

RACHEL SHELLEY as Pamela Morton in ITV's Grantchester
Woman with a secret – Pamela Morton

The year is 1953 and Sidney has recently served in the Scots Guards during the Second World War, fighting and killing people. Now, as Grantchester’s vicar, he is in a fairly doomed relationship with heiress Amanda Kendall, sometimes wilts under the pressure to be good all the time and is willing to break rules. Most shockingly, he prefers whisky to sherry.

James Norton as Sidney is easily star of the show, playing the character with charm and vulnerability. Odd to think that while filming Grantchester he was simultaneously portraying the sadistic Tommy Lee Royce in Happy Valley. That’s quite a contrast.

Dark side of the 1950s

Grantchester‘s other strength is that it is no rose-tinted trip down chocolate box lane, like so many period dramas are. The 1950s are not shown as a romanticised lost age, but one that was unforgiving

JAMES NORTON as Sidney Chambers, MORVEN CHRISTIE as Amanda Kendall in Grantchester
Destined to be apart? Amanda and Sidney

to homosexuals – later in the series we meet closeted curate Leonard Finch (Al Weaver) – the death penalty is even more unforgiving towards those wrongly convicted, and life was pretty restricted for women, so Amanda’s aristocratic father is about to marry her off.

The opening story sees Sidney landed with a problem by one of his flock, the vampish Pamela Morton. She reveals that the solicitor Sidney has just buried was her illicit lover and that he did not commit suicide.

Sidney tries to interest local detective Geordie Keating in the claim. Robson Green plays the cynical cop with a comedy touch, and the two make a fine odd couple. We also meet Sidney’s scowling housekeeper Mrs Maguire, played by Tessa Peake-Jones.

Grantchester should be a big hit

The opener is a good mix of heartbreak, some humour and someone’s passions running amok.

Don’t get me wrong. Grantchester won’t have viewers singing Hallelujah! every Monday at 9pm, but ITV have got an awful lot right in this drama, which looks likely to be a big hit.

Cast: James Norton Sidney Chambers, Robson Green Geordie Keating, Morven Christie Amanda Kendall, Tessa Peake-Jones Mrs Maguire, Al Weaver Leonard Finch, Pheline Roggan Hildegard Staunton, Fiona Button Jennifer Chambers, Ukweli Roach Johnny Johnson, Tom Austen Guy Hopkins, Pip Torrens Sir Edward Kendall, Kacey Ainsworth Cathy Keating, Rachel Shelley Pamela Morton, Michelle Duncan Annabel Morrison

Check out these links…
James Runcie interview
ITV announce Grantchester commission

Follow @crimetimeprev

ITV’s best new crime shows autumn 2014

IT’S BEEN a sunny summer for once, but as usual there’s nowt on the box (apart from the Commonwealth Games), so this is a good moment to look in the crystal ball and see what treats ITV has in store for the autumn and beyond.

There are some well-known faces coming back – a few of which are to be welcomed, others a little past their sell-by date – with a couple of intriguing newcomers in production.

Broadchurch 2 One of the hottest shows of last year, it’s even been creating a stir in the US, where

Broadchurch 2 ITV cast rehearsal

David Tennant has reprised his role as detective Alec Hardy in an American version of the series. He will be back with Olivia Colman as Ellie Miller in the ITV follow-up. Charlotte Rampling joins the cast (pictured right). It’s been filming in Dorset and acclaimed screenwriter Chris Chibnall is back masterminding the production. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Chasing Shadows is one of the interesting new shows. Starring Reece Shearsmith and Alex Kingston, it’s about a missing persons unit. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Arthur & George is a three-part adaptation of Julian Barnes’s novel, based on true events. Martin Clunes stars as Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, who challenges a miscarriage of justice. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Scott and Bailey's Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp

Scott & Bailey 4 Returns for a fourth series. The drama’s original tendency to portray all men as thick, immature, unfaithful or criminal has faded, while the stories have got more powerful and the cast – Lesley Sharp, Suranne Jones, Amelia Bullmore – have won a big following and the writing – Lee Warburton, Emily Ballou and Amelia Bullmore again! – has been gripping. Janet and Rachel’s relationship is tested to the limit this time round. Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

Grantchester Following in the footsteps of the Beeb’s gentle daytime mystery Father Brown is Sidney Chambers, a charismatic clergyman played by James Norton (the vile villain in Happy Valley). This is also a period piece – set in 1953 – and has a nice cast, including Robson Green, Morven Christie and Tessa Peak-Jones. A six-parter, it was filming in London, Cambridge and Grantchester earlier this year. Anticipation factor: ★★★½

Arthur & George Three-part adaptation of Julian Barnes’s novel, based on true events. Martin Clunes stars as Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, who challenges a miscarriage of justice. Filming autumn 2014. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Safe House An atmospheric thriller set in the Lake District. Cast yet to be announced. It’s a four-parter inspired by a true story of a couple who turn their guest house into a safe house. Filming autumn 2014. Anticipation factor: ★★★★

Code of a Killer Two-parter based on the extraordinary true story of Alec Jeffreys’ discovery of DNA fingerprinting and its first use by detective David Baker in snaring a double murderer. With the terrific David Threlfall in the cast, filming starts in September. Anticipation factor: ★★★★½

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher Terrific book by Kate Summerscale, fab first series. But then came the fictionalised re-imaging of the Victorian detective’s career after the infamous country house child murder of the original. I so wanted to like this, and there is probably a great story about Whicher’s later life, but this reboot reduces his tale to a straight cop procedural. Still, fingers crossed, it’s got Paddy Considine returning as the man himself. Anticipation factor: ★★★

Lewis It feels like a tired old regular screen fixture, but there will be attempts to shake-up the formula with a slight reversal of roles for Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox’s detectives, the now retired Lewis and newly promoted Hathaway. Anticipation factor: ★★★
Brenda Blethyn as Vera, ITV
Foyle’s War Three 120-minute stories are in the pipeline, as Michael Kitchen returns as Christopher Foyle, now a senior intelligence office for MI5 in the aftermath of the Second World War. The guest stars include John Mahoney (Frasier), Richard Lintern (Silent Witness), Nigel Lindsay (Four Lions), Jaime Winstone (Mad Dogs) and William Postlethwaite (Midsomer Murders). Anthony Horowitz is back on story duty. Anticipation factor: ★★★½

Vera 5 Filming is under way, with Kenny Doughty joining as DS Aiden Healy after David Leon’s departure as Joe Ashworth (shame, as his storylines were often quite good). Brenda Blethyn (right) still heads proceedings as DCI Vera Stanhope. 2015. Anticipation factor: ★★★½

Let us know which shows you can’t wait to see… comment below or email us

Follow @crimetimeprev

%d bloggers like this: