Doc On The Box – Endeavour vs Midsomer vs Father Brown

images (2)It’s been a busy week on the box for crime drama. Sherlock returned to much acclaim/horror (delete as applicable) but so did Endeavour, the Morse prequel, Midsomer Murders, Father Brown, that pathology thing that I’ve forgotten the name of – Silent Witness, that’s it and Death In Paradise. More from Death In Paradise later – that earns its own post – and if you think I watched Silent Witness, you don’t know me very well. But what about the opening episodes of Endeavour, Midsomer Murders and Father Brown?

Well, Endeavour was dealing with a girl spirited away and murdered from a fairground and a bunch of insufferable toffs, Barnaby was up against a body snatcher and Father Brown was on the set of the cheapest looking horror movie ever made? But would they catch their killers? And which was the best of the three?

imagesEndeavour first. Morse is sulking after the events of the last episode of season two – with good reason – but hiding out in a shack on a lakeside near some unbearable rich types (old student friends of his) really seemed out of character. He’s abandoned his girlfriend from the previous series – she does get a cameo, but nothing more, which was a shame – but needless to say, he gets drawn into the case anyway. As we know he’ll rejoin the police force, there’s not a vast amount of tension in that strand, but the cardinal sin is the plot. Not that it’s weak, just that it’s been seen before. And in an obvious way. It’s a bastardised version of The Great Gatsby – they don’t even try and hide those roots – and something that if I name it will give the game away. It’s ironic really, given something that someone else said recently… But it just felt lazy – let’s hope with Morse back at work properly next week things will pick up. The central cast (especially Shaun Evans and the wonderful Roger Allam) did sterling work with what they were given, but let’s hope they’ve got something a bit more original next time.

images (1)Now off to Midsomer Murders. Point one – body snatching is not murder. Just saying… Admittedly, I was looking the wrong way for a fair chunk of the tale, distracted by the decent actors being given a ludicrous plot to play out. Oh, and by the way, subplots need closure too. Just saying… The fate of the estate and the people living on it needed to be addressed in the closing minutes – we’d worked out where Betty’s pink teddy bear was going after five minutes, although should Barnaby be worried about how it got in the car? But the plot was one of the more inane ones of the series. If this is the one to open the series, then I worry about the rest of them. I’ll probably still watch them though – which is possibly the biggest mystery of them all. Come to think of it, I know the answer to that – the central cast, with the new addition of Manjinder Virk as the new forensics/pathologist. Always watchable and make the biggest pile of nonsense almost palatable. And this was the biggest pile of nonsense.

images (3)And Father Brown with its ecclesiastical inconsistencies easily walks off with the title. It’s fun, inconsequential but much more thought had gone into the plot. Not convinced the method would have worked, but for all the slightly wooden acting in places, the lack of resemblance to the work of Chesterton and the clearly low budget, this was a lot of fun. Mark Williams really is doing a good job as the clerical sleuth and thinning the supporting cast since last I saw it helps it as well. And, pay attention Midsomer, every subplot was tied up by the end. Not sure about the comedy policeman, but I’ll be checking out the rest of the series when I get the chance.

That’s all for now – Death In Paradise tonight (and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which I must write about at some point) so more from Doc On The Box soon.

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9 comments

  1. I was just saying that they need stronger writers on these TV dramas, as they all seemed to be a bit of a let-down this past week or so. I did watch Silent Witness and that wasn’t much better either. There seems to be a trend for plotholes at present.

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    • With Father Brown, all the writers are soap writers and haven’t worked on a detective show before. Perhaps because of this, I tend to find that the stories feel almost as if they are writing what the imagine detective fiction to be like. An example is when a character might say about a victim, “I could murder him sometimes!”, little knowing that the other person will of course die and the speaker will look suspicious.

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  2. I suspect the writers know that you…and me and thousands of other people…will keep watching anyway which is why they don’t have to go to the effort of making them very good. I promised myself I would stop watching Midsomer after the stupid episode several seasons back in which Warren Clarke was the bad guy dressed as an ancient Stag but I keep coming back. Even if bad it’s better than The real housewives of wherever or competitive cooking/dancing/home renovating which is the only competition on free to air TV here.

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  3. Have you seen or written about “Grantchester”? My local PBS station is rerunning the entire series and I watched the first episode thinking I had not seen it. Turns out I had, but I watched the whole thing all over again. I still find the series captivating on so many levels. I tried reading the third volume of stories (Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil) and found them deadly dull and had to shut the book before I got to the third story (there are only six in each volume). The dialogue especially was so unnatural — wavering between wretched platitudes or cliché melodrama when it wasn’t drearily and intellectually didactic in imparting theology to the reader. Here’s one of the few examples of a TV show improving upon the original, IMO. True, the TV show tends to allow a contemporary worldview leak into some of the episodes but it’s done slyly and with more believability than the early Father Brown episodes most of which I did not like. I’m hoping there will be a second season of “Grantchester.”

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    • I’m aware of the show and the books – I think I’ve got the first on my Kindle – and I always try and do book first. But nothing really grabbed me about the set-up so it drifted away. At some point, I’ll take a proper look – the books are short stories, yes? Maybe I’ll read the first one and see what happens.

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  4. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one to notice the irony in the connection between Endeavour and the comment to which you refer.

    This series of Father Brown seems to be a bit of a mixed bag, while remaining quite watchable. The first two being more or less straight mysteries that we are used to with the series. The third ‘The Hangman’s Demise’ being a much darker tale than normal. The fourth ‘The Crackpot of the Empire’ by contrast having almost farcical elements; and the fifth ‘The Daughter of Autolycus’ being more of an adventure caper with only a minimal mystery element. Having just watched the sixth ‘The Rod of Asclepius’ I was surprised to see that much of it was lifted wholesale from a well known if venerable film and book. If the writers are going to rehash plots from other sources why not use the original Father Brown stories, which, in my opinion at least, provide a rich seam of plots that have only minimally been exploited for the series.

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    • To be honest, I’m not that au fait with the original material and so far, I’ve only caught the first episode. I’ll try and find time to watch the rest, but it’s a bit difficult to get a sense of urgency about it. If I do get round to more, then I’ll do a blog on them.

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