Most current crime dramas rely on nudity, sex and gruesome deaths. This one doesn’t. Instead, this delightful BBC series (eight seasons and counting) is an amalgam of wonderful wit and mildly moralistic musings – with the odd murder thrown in.
First aired in 2013 on BBC 1, Father Brown is based on the GK Chesterton stories of the same name. But while the books are set in the 1920s, the series takes place three decades later, and cleverly incorporates many of the issues of the day (including racism, women’s rights, and class distinctions).
Set in the fictional Cotswold village of Kembleford, and packed with landscapes that will have you yearning for a country cottage of your own, the series is headed by its titular character: a mild-mannered Roman Catholic priest possessed of a fine curiosity and a bent for solving murders. Which makes him, alas, the bane of his superiors – more than one bishop loses his mitre over the Father’s antics, much to our glee!
Played by the ever-excellent Mark Williams (he of Weasley family fame), the Father surrounds himself with a faithful band of followers: fellow crime enthusiasts from all walks of life. There’s the conservative parish secretary Mrs McCarthy (Sorcha Cusack), a foil to Brown’s wilder ways; the lovely Lady Felicia (Nancy Carroll), a warm-hearted hedonist; and the odd-jobbing ne’er-do-well Sid Carter (Alex Price). And in later seasons, we’re introduced to the adventurous and Honourable Penelope ‘Bunty’ Windermere (Emer Kenny), a young lady with a passion for fast cars and faster living. And of course there’s the Father’s arch-rival, Hercule Flambeau (played by John Light) – a master thief who consistently fails to outwit our protagonist.
With such a stellar cast, the series has enjoyed a fairly epic run as the second longest-running daytime drama series on BBC1. And not once has it needed to resort to the shock and schlock tactics of other crime offerings. Instead, what you get is a perfect period piece: a Poirot with priests that, week after week, provides perfect pleasure.