5 September 2017 | skipperkd
Clerical detective series have been done before, and done better, as with Cadfael, Father Brown, Father Dowling, etc. etc. Grantchester is a mixed bag. I like Inspector Keating -- and his wife and kids -- but the portrayal of the vicar Sidney Chambers is problematic for me -- he comes across as a man doing everything BUT his clerical duties, except for the gratuitous little sermon at the end of each episode. The roles of vicar and hobby- detective are poorly integrated. Chambers is a kind man, but he appears to be a vicar who would far rather be solving crimes than serving his flock and saving souls, habitually leaving his co-worker Leonard to handle his clerical duties. Chambers doesn't just help Inspector Keating a little, he becomes completely engrossed in the crime, to the point of (needlessly) walking out of church during a children's Christmas presentation.
Furthermore, the vicar lacks an appreciation of the sanctity of the confession, as well as the need for basic trust and confidentiality with his parishioners. He actually uses confession and trust as a tool to solve crimes. I am surprised he isn't defrocked. The episodes with the youth, Gary, who spoke privately with the vicar, comes to mind, for one example. (By the way, his church pews are never full, and rarely half-full. Is this consistent with post-war England? Maybe.)
In the first episode I quite liked the luscious vicar, Mr. Chambers, but after watching the first two seasons, I was willing to stop there. I grew quite tired of his boozing, smoking, and jazz. In the TV series, his character gradually comes across as increasingly irresponsible and self-indulgent, rather than broody-sexy. As he cavorts around with various women, he appears foolhardy, careless of his reputation, and somewhat stupid, even (recklessly boozing it up in a woman's bedroom, while she is half-dressed, while suspecting she might be a killer). As a vicar, he is anachronistic for the time period.
I am not crazy about his main love interest, Amanda, even though I sympathize with her. I have read that in the books her characterization was handled better, but the television series lacks something.
I love the stern but soft-hearted housekeeper, Mrs. Maguire (what the dickens!?!) and the humble vicar Leonard, who struggles with timidity and homosexuality. They make the show. Mrs. Maguire is the foil to Chambers, and Leonard's character engenders more sympathy than does the vicar Chambers.
For non-clerical period British detective series, my current top favorite is the new Endeavor series, portraying a young constable Morse, before he became the sometimes arrogant and unlikable Inspector Morse -- apparently a hit series back in its day. Also, I quite enjoyed the George Gentry series, which is set in Manchester (or Newcastle?) in the 1960s. Agatha Christie's Marple series is quite good, too.
I also highly recommend the Vera (Stanhope) series, and the Shetland series, but they are set in the 21st century, with cell phones and computers (both series were based on books by Anne Cleeves). For a British crime-detective series that focuses more on the judicial court proceedings, I like Kavanaugh, QC.