'Grantchester - The Complete Fourth Season'
(James Norton, Robson Green, Tom Brittney, Al Weaver, Tessa Peak-Jones, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2019 / PBS)
Overview: It's 1956 and Sidney Chambers is feeling adrift - until Violet Todd arrives and fires up his need for social justice.
Soon there's a new Vicar of Grantchester, idealistic Will Davenport, who finds himself drawn into Inspector Geordie Keating's world of crime.
While Will embraces the future, Geordie is left entirely baffled by it. Navigating a world without Sidney, where does he fit in?
DVD Verdict: Based on acclaimed mystery novels by James Runcie, and highly reminiscent of 'Father Brown,' 'Grantchester' is a beautiful time piece, peacefully captured with vignettes of rich objects identifying a long gone world of wonderment and scenery serene to dye your soul.
The episodes run a quick 45 minutes each and are a comfortable fit for an evenings viewing. I admit to enjoying British period pieces, such as 'Foyle's War' and the aforementioned 'Father Brown,' and so this show is a welcome addition to the genre.
The fact that, whether it's true or not, back in the 50's the Vicar's of small Parishes were all a) drunks, b) crime solving addicts, and c) one-liner wiz's, seems to make me smile!
Norton plays the vicar at a small parish with habits rather unusual for a man of the cloth: behind the beautiful face, he hides a drinking problem, taste for jazz and melancholy caused by feelings for the wrong woman (although that all changes in this fourth season).
He is helping his friend, a local cop, solve murders. But the whole thing is not very dark, the colors are bright, the little community around the vicar is warm and friendly, and the viewer feels instantly drawn to the story.
Indeed if Poirot had a handsome younger brother, it would be Norton for his charisma is rather suppressed, but equally impressive at the very same time.
With a more skilled actor these two aspects might have been meshed together to show an interesting and complex human being, but Norton doesn't have the skill to portray such a man.
Ergo, on a personal note, there is very little subtlety and nuance in his performances, so he is always reaching to simply convince.
As for this fourth season, well, change is most definitely in the air as, and finally, I am a tad bit relieved that Sidney's angst-ridden character is being dealt with - as I was finding his inability to stay committed to the Church and his vows a little tiresome, in truth.
They have squeezed as much as they could out of that story line surely, I was thinking. The time to shift him away was due and now a whole new plot thread can be explored.
As for the crux to this, what has to be called not-the-best season thus far, without justification, Sidney dumps Amanda and decides to be with another woman with the same or, actually, all cards on the table, way more troubles!
Sidestepping all that for a moment and I love the stern, but soft-hearted housekeeper, Mrs. Maguire (Tessa Peake-Jones, "What the Dickens?!") and the humble vicar Leonard (Al Weaver), 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 'Endeavor' series portraying a young constable Morse, before he became the sometimes arrogant and unlikable Inspector Morse.
Also, I quite enjoyed the George Gentry series, which is set in Manchester (or Newcastle?) in the 1960s.
Back on track though and with regard this relationship triangle that Sidney has been juggling for a while now, well, I mean, sorry, but it's not even similar to the book.
They simply made Sidney and Amanda's relationship so full of affection and sentimentality only then to bring a lackluster girl in out of the blue to try to create a true love for our central character.
For me it just doesn't fly, given the up's and down's we have all gone through in the past three seasons, but them's the breaks of only being on the outside of the writers room; as 99% of us viewers always are, of course.
The show overall is reliably well produced, the scripts true and the characters full of flaws to satisfy the most demanding 'make-them-human' viewer. This season was interesting, although rather sad at long intervals, but at all times hugely entertaining.
Thus, and not wishing to give too much away, we now get to see how the new vicar Will Davenport (Tom Brittney) reveals his true character - and if he can play fair with Geordie, of course! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs with the Bonus Feature of:
The Making of Grantchester 4