Grantchester’s new sexy vicar detective is a crime too far

James Norton’s replacement is revving up to take over in the new ITV series – but can we really accept ANOTHER crime-fighting vicar?

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This time, Grantchester has gone too far.

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I could just about live with one crime-solving vicar – Fathers Brown and Dowling have done something like it before after all.

I could swallow that he’d look like James Norton, dilly around with half the young eligible ladies in the parish and nurture a harmful addiction to the most deadly of vices – jazz.

I could even just about stomach the fact that apparently both police and ne’er-do-wells welcome the local vicar into criminal investigations, with no-one ever questioning why a man in a dog collar is taking part in interviews inside a police station.

It’s a TV show. The premise, the twist on the formula, is that he’s a vicar, and it’s not meant to be realistic.

But now that James Norton, the original loose-cannon/louche Canon, has decided to hang up his vestments for good, there’s a new hot-under-the-collar vicar (played by Tom Brittney) ready to clean up the mean lanes of Cambridgeshire – and it’s broken me.

Maybe, just maybe, Sidney Chambers is such a unique individual that a police officer would take him into his confidence. It’s unlikely, but we can roll with it.

Grantchester, ITV Pictures

But now, apparently, any vicar will do – literally the very next vicar who comes along will also be solving murders. It’s just part of the job description. Write a few sermons, open the village fete, get into a fistfight with a burglar, organise a bring-and-buy-sale for the local school, examine bloodied murder weapons, comfort a grieving widow. Murder and the investigation thereof are ecclesiastical matters now, and we need to all get used to it.

Yes, the series had to get around James Norton leaving somehow. Yes, there are plenty of shows where people with non-police backgrounds – con men, writers, psychics, CSIs, the Actual Devil – get unrealistically involved with investigations. It’s the cornerstone of detective fiction, really, and Grantchester is just one small part of that.

But the thing is, all those people are just men and women in suits, who the police can pass off as “consultants”. In Grantchester these are priests, wearing their priest outfits while they run after serial killers and the like, and no-one bats an eyelid.

I wish it no ill-will, but the suspension of disbelief needed for me to accept Grantchester’s second sexy crime-solving vicar requires several cranes, a team of dedicated workmen and an ingenious pulley system.

To be fair to the team behind the new series, it’s not like they’re unaware of the awkwardness in continuing their premise – without giving anything away, the “handover” is smoother than you might expect – and it’s not like crime dramas haven’t successfully reimagined their leads in the past. Look at Death in Paradise, now near-unrecognisable from the Ben Miller days.

But still, I just find it hard to imagine there are quite so many crime-solving vicars in Cambridge. The archdeacon clearly needs to rethink his screening process.

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Grantchester airs on ITV on Fridays at 9pm