by Brad Nelson 6/14/18
A vicar regularly helps a police inspector with his cases while drinking too much and being chronically undecided about the girl he loves…or maybe likes…or maybe they’re just friends. What could go wrong?
First off, we can give credit to this series for not being as politically correct as most modern British series. The glaring exception is the vicar’s curate, Leonard Finch, who is a closet homosexual and the model nice guy. There’s just no escaping gender-bending issues in almost any TV series these days. Finch is certainly the kind of character very effective at mainstreaming homosexuality.
Oddly, as the series progresses, all of the primarily players except for Leonard Finch become less admirable. Agree or disagree with his orientation, Finch is in a tight spot as he struggles to reconcile his faith with his feelings. Al Weaver plays Finch and is heads-and-tails above every other actor in fleshing out a realistic and nuanced character. You care about Finch. The rest of them be damned. (This is surely be design.)
On the other hand, James Norton as Sidney Chambers is mediocre in his role as the vicar. His end-of-show sermons are particularly cringe-worthy as he gives them with all the charm of molded plastic. It doesn’t help that by the middle of season three he has turned from an admirable, if often stressed and confused, character to one who you downright begin to dislike. Commandments fall away right and left. This is not a vicar I would take advice from for how to live my life. How he has anyone in his flock is a bit of a mystery.
The series revolves around the vicar Chambers and the more talented Robson Green as Inspector Geordie Keating. The gist of the show is that these two become friends (after an adversarial start) and Chambers is basically an unpaid and unofficial junior officer in the local police force. He somehow finds a way to be involved in every murder, rape, or theft that comes along — including being there in the interview room with the suspects. I don’t know what planet would allow this. But you have to suspend disbelief on this point. A lot.
And as the core, this formula works okay. Chambers has some background as a traumatized soldier with some scars, but this storyline never goes anywhere and his character (despite the big words he says) increasingly lacks depth. With Green anchoring a somewhat interesting and believable Inspector Keating, the so-so crime plots that turn up are at least mildly entertaining.
However, then we come to the vicar’s love life where they try to shoehorn in the truly awful character of Amanda Huggenkiss (as I call her….the only way I can stay sane while watching this series). It’s difficult to care about this relationship. You just want it to go away. Besides, the vicar had two gorgeous women who wanted him — a German and then Geordie’s secretary who I have nicknamed “Jackie Kennedy” because that’s basically her look. (And she looks very good indeed.)
Anyway, it’s a quandary why I keep watching this show even those it has me regularly yelling at the screen. Maybe there’s something to be said for primal scream therapy. There’s certainly something about the series that is above the mediocrity of the typical modern series despite its flaws. Maybe I’m just sticking around hoping Mrs. Maguire (the vicar’s prickly, old-fashioned, outspoken housekeeper) will verbally assault the vicar and/or Amanda Huggenkiss and finally deal them a real knock-out blow. She does issue some good barbs from time to time.
Mr. Kung will no doubt fill in the many points I’ve missed. I hope he does. No doubt he will tell you more about Amanda Huggenkiss because I just can’t bring myself to do so.
Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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