Here in Cambridge, there was much rejoicing in the streets when ITV announced its adaptation of James Runcie’s Grantchester Mysteries. Finally, we thought, a show to do for our corner of England what Morse and its attendant spin-offs have done for the Other Place (the one we don’t like to talk about). Three series in, though, it’s abundantly clear that, if Morse is the cryptic crossword puzzle of TV crime dramas, then Grantchester is more of a dot-to-dot. Or possibly a painting-by-numbers.

For a start, they’ve long since shucked off any attempt to find convincing reasons for Canon Sidney Chambers (James Norton) to get involved in local police investigations. It’s just accepted that’s what he does – even taking the lead in formal interviews. (‘For the tape, the local vicar has entered the room. No-one knows why.’)

Maybe it’s because he’s the only one capable of elementary detective work: in Sunday’s episode – in which a young Indian man was found dead in his bath – he had to point out even the most basic clues, like a half-smoked cigarette, to the plods. And, as usual, it was down to him to solve the mystery with one of his trademark lightbulb moments – intuitive leaps of logic that would put Sherlock to shame, never mind a hapless flat-foot like Robson Green’s Inspector Geordie Keating.

This time, it was the killer’s taste in romantic literature that caused our hero’s ears to prick up – though, frankly, his flashes of inspiration can come from anywhere. (‘More tea, vicar?’ ‘Tea. Yes, tea – T for tiger. Wait a minute. That’s it! He was killed by a tiger!’)

What’s odd is the way the show contrasts heartfelt emotional and existential angst (Sidney is a shell-shocked war veteran tortured by his forbidden love for a married woman) with Scooby Doo crime-busting that verges on outright pastiche.

I suspect that, for many, this tweeness – from the picture postcard, is-there-honey-still-for-tea village green setting to Sidney’s closing sermon on what we’ve all just learned – is a key part of Grantchester’s escapist appeal. But in the great pantheon of ITV whodunits, it’s definitely more Midsomer than Morse.

TV extra:


Line of Duty

Placing poor old Grantchester head-to-head with Line of Duty on Sunday nights felt a bit like putting a sparrow in a cage with a 1001b gorilla. The police corruption thriller’s gripping, head-spinning fourth series – featuring a dazzling star turn from Thandie Newton – was another triumph for writer Jed Mercurio, even if his serpentine plots do edge further away from reality with each passing year. As the great “Super” Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) himself would say: great work, fella.


Great British Menu

With Prue Leith having “gone with the dough” to Bake Off, restaurateur Andi Oliver joins Oliver Peyton and Matthew Fort at the judges’ table for this year’s GBM, in which 24 top chefs compete for the honour of – oh go on then – serving up a magnificent banquet at this summer’s Wimbledon Championships. But with starters in the first round including ‘vacuum-compressed charred watermelon’ and ‘dill ice cream with mustard and vinegar’, you’ll forgive me if I stick to the strawberries and cream.


Published in Waitrose Weekend, May 4, 2017

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