Both P.G Wodehouse and G.K Chesterton are currently enjoying something of a televisual revival. Over the weekend and during the early part of this week we were shown the latest Blandings offering, starring Timothy Spall and Jennifer Saunders and then, on Monday daytime, Father Brown, staring Mark Williams.
Blandings was, surprisingly, especially in light of the continued popularity of the author’s novels, pretty much your average farce. This puzzled me as I like the highly talented cast as much as I adore the King of witty words and comic writing, Wodehouse himself. It was all rather lame and slightly silly. Of course the stories themselves are daft as a bag of puppies so what then went wrong? I suspect the problem has more to do with P.G. Wodehouse’s absence as the ironic baffle to the pompous upper class twits he so ably portrays. His genius as a writer was to present this long faded bunch in less than glowing terms but with a matchless wit. As hard as the cast worked, and as skilled as they all are, the narrators satirical observations were sadly missing leaving the viewers with little more than a dead duck from a departed decade. Shame really as I had such high hopes. Still, itt was only the first of six.
Father Brown though was better. Mark Williams is of course following in the footsteps of some distinguished thespians. Sir Alex Guinness and Kenneth Moore both gave sterling performances in the role; Guinness on the silver screen and Moore on TV. I think Williams is visually more like the character C.K. Chesterton envisaged. He is slightly portly, which adds to the realism but also acts the part in a deferential, polite but irritatingly precise manner. It has been said that ‘Father Brown’ was the perfect vehicle for Chesterton to allow his own personality to be shown. Whether this is the case or not matters little with this TV show.
The first episode of ten show series was aired on daytime BBC. It featured ‘The Hammer of God’ which reveals that the producers are not sticking to the true chronology of the detective priest. There were one or two modern amendments made though. The time period chosen is the 1950's rather than have the chronology span from 1911 through to 1936. Not sure why this has been done. I personally prefer accurate detail. Also, Father Brown's location has changed from London to some rural idyll and of course converted arch nemesis, Flambeau is missing. I thoroughly enjoyed the programme even with its faults. For modern day viewers of crime fiction ‘Father Brown’ will lack any sense of ‘realism.’ What it and its author portray in its place is a sharp exercise in characterisation along with a snappy plot albeit set in some odd age after the war. Like any good vintage it has aged well.
all words and art are copyright © of Russell 'C.J' Duffy.To view my books on Amazon/Kindle go here: https://www.amazon.com/author/russellduffy -- For another side of CJ go here: sOMeThiNg For tHE wEeKeND, SiR?