Grantchester: the Vicar Comes to Cabot Cove

James Norton plays vicar Sidney Chambers on the PBS Masterpiece Mystery! mini-series Grantchester.
Grantchester (Photo: Des Willie / ITV / PBS)

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 RuncieGrantchester 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.

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv