Saturday, 5 March 2016

Shows to Look Out for in 2016.

When I first heard the premise of Grantchester—local vicar develops an interest in sleuthing—I remember thinking: dear God, not another do-gooding religious character solving mysteries. Hasn't this been done before, like, a dozen times? And whilst 'a dozen times' may be something of an exaggeration, anyone who's seen Cadfael, Father Brown, or The Father Dowling Mysteries must surely sympathise. This just isn't a novel concept. I mean, it is the concept for some novels (if in doubt, check out Ellis Peters, Ralph McInerny, or G.K. Chesterton's bibliographies), but this really shouldn't have been the foundation for such an outstanding show.

Grantchester's main selling point is obviously James Norton. After a rather unremarkable performance in Doctor Who's 'Cold War', he really wasn't on my radar, but after watching the Daisy Coulam penned first season—an adaptation of James Runcie's 'The Grantchester Mysteries'—it became clear why his star was in such ascendancy. He's good. The show is good. I mean, it's really good. It's embarrassingly self-assured for a new show, and Sidney Chambers is a properly rounded character with the sort of self-doubts and foibles that we can all empathise with. Add to the mix Robson Green as detective Geordie Keating, Sidney's sounding board and eventual best friend, and the breathtaking Cambridgeshire countryside—almost a character in its own right—and your mid-week viewing just got a whole lot more interesting.

Grantchester season two is currently airing every Wednesday at 9 PM (ITV), and is due to air in the US on March 27th (PBS). But in case you're still not convinced, I'll leave this jpeg here for you to look at—just in case you like your Anglican Vicars half-naked. Norton undeniably puts the phwoar in post-(ph)w(o)ar England.

My other two favourite shows this year have been Vera (ITV) and Shetland (BBC). Both are adaptations of crime author Ann Cleeves' excellent 'Vera Stanhope' and 'Shetland Island Series' novels (with original stories added for variety), and both offer northern colour to your weekend viewing. (Shetland being so far north that you actually have to get in a boat to get there.) The Shetland Isles are obviously a beautiful backdrop for a crime drama, but it's the remoteness, combined with the relatability of its detectives in an environment of idiosyncratic island folk, which offers something different from the more hectic, city-based detective shows. Plus, Douglas Henshall and Julie Graham are in it. I don't know what more needs to be said.

Vera likewise manages to highlight the scenic side of Northumberland, and Brenda Blethyn is simply marvellous as the show's eponymous hero. Vera is the antidote to TV's immaculately dressed detectives. She dresses like a bag lady, wears less make-up than a giraffe, and armed with a full-on 'Geordie' accent, grumbles her way through every episode, making deductive leaps that would put Sherlock Holmes to shame. Yet despite the main character's shortcomings, Vera is ultimately a show with heart. Despite her sometimes brusque exterior, Vera genuinely cares about the people under her care. And any show which makes Newcastle look inviting has to be doing something right. I initially considered Blethyn's Geordie accent to be a crime against humanity, but that was before I heard Greg Bryan's attempt at one on last week's episode of Castle. If you haven't heard it yet, check out this monstrosity...

My favourite comment underneath this abomination was "This is the worst thing that has ever happened." I agree wholeheartedly. Dick Van Dyke has finally been stripped of his Worst Ever Attempt at an English Accent Award, and I see Bryan reigning unchallenged for decades to come.

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