Grantchester Series 1 Review

  • Title:  Grantchester
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 6
  • Discs: 2
  • Cast:  Robson Green, James Norton, Morven Christie, Tessa Peake-Jones, Pheline Roggen, Al Weaver
  • Network:  ITV
  • DVD Format:  Widescreen, Color, DVD, R1, NTSC

Grantchester is an English cozy mystery for the screen, based on a recent set of mysteries by James Runcie. I’ve read the first two Sidney Chamber mystery novels and thoroughly enjoyed them – reviews can be found on my GoodReads page. The Sidney Chambers novels are written as related short stories which is perfect to adapt to television. I have the next two in the series but haven’t read them yet.

Canon Sidney Chambers (James Norton) is an Anglican priest who becomes an accidental detective. Sidney isn’t old or stuffy, however. As a result of his experiences fighting in Word War II, he’s suffering from PTSD – specifically nightmares. He drinks, possibly too much, listens to jazz (much to the chagrin of his housekeeper, Mrs. MaGuire), and chases women. As an Anglican priest, he can marry, though he isn’t required to marry.

In the first story, Sidney takes the funeral of a man who “committed suicide”, which everyone else had refused to do according to the man’s wife. The man’s mistress comes to Sidney, and tells him that the man was actually murdered. Sidney takes her anonymous information to the police, in the form of Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green), which starts a beautiful friendship between the two.

Soon the priest and the cop are solving crimes together. People tell Sidney things they won’t tell the police, both because he’s a vicar and because of Sidney’s innate compassion for everyone. But solving crimes also takes it toil on Sidney – as the man who is supposed to see the best in everyone is forced to see the worse. Sidney also is often able to make connections that lead him to solve cases.

Sidney and Geordie make a great pair, and being so different, they can work together to sort through the thorny problems and cases in the small village of Grantchester, near Cambridge, England. Set in the early 1950s, Sidney is written as a modern man – so he rallies against the racism, classism, and prejudice of the times. Whether it’s the class distinctions that mean he can’t be with the woman he loves, Amanda. Or the prejudice that his housekeeper at first has against his next girlfriend, Hildegard, who happens to be German. Or the racism his sister faces for dating a Black jazz singer. Or even Geordie’s prejudice against homosexuals (including Geordie’s arresting gays for “gross indecency”). Often it is the foibles of people who are at the root of the crime, including murder.

The cast is rounded out by Leonard, a newly minted priest that Sidney takes under his wing; Mrs. McGuire, the gruff housekeeper at the Vicarage; Amanda Kendall, a rich socialite who has been Sidney’s friend for years; Hildegard, Sidney’s new girlfriend that he meets on his first case; and occasionally Sidney’s sister, Jennifer, and Geordie’s wife, Cathy.

Grantchester is a great show, beautifully filmed, with a talented cast. It has the tone that many great English cozies have of the perfect image, that is seething with prejudice, jealousy, hatred, assumption, and guilt underneath. And the cast brings the characters to life wonderfully. Again, just because the main character is a priest doesn’t make Grantchester stodgy, stuffy, preachy, and certainly not boring. If you get the chance to see it I’d definitely recommend it.

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