PBS has imported another popular ITV series, Grantchester, under the banner of Masterpiece. Calling it a masterpiece does not make it so.
Just because a show is British and imported to the U.S. doesn’t mean it is inherently good television. Case in point: the latest series under the PBS Masterpiece Mystery! banner, ITV’s Grantchester.
Adapted from the books series by James Runcie, Grantchester is the story of vicar Sidney Chambers (James Norton) who becomes a sleuth between sermons. As described by the author, Chambers is “Young, tall, more handsome than a clergyman deserves to be, idealistic, upstanding and trustworthy, Sidney can go where the police cannot.” Unfortunately, the execution of the series goes where every procedural preceding it has gone before. There’s the soft-boiled detective (Robson Green) who doesn’t endorse the vicar’s antics, a character with a catchphrase, and a setting in the 1950s because…because.
Although Sidney is a charming enough character, the mystery is rather light (and perhaps predictable) compared to other entries in the Masterpiece collection. The vicar’s charm is not enough to carry the series. Each revelation is punctuated with an epiphany face, not unlike those offered by Jessica Fletcher. In fact, there were so many unfavorable comparisons to Murder, She Wrote, you would probably be better served watching the older series on Netflix.
Now you may point out that Grantchester had 6.6 million viewers during its original run—which is huge by UK standards. Broadchurch was also a ratings boon for ITV and did not translate at all when imported stateside. British drama does not automatically mean prestige. Though there is nothing offensive about Grantchester, it does nothing to push the medium or mystery genre forward.