Father Brown remains a beloved staple of daytime TV, with cast members Mark Williams and John Burton suggesting the series has secured longevity and maintained its popularity due to its imaginative storytelling and its comforting formulaic structure.
Based on the Father Brown short stories by GK Chesterton, the quaint crime drama follows Harry Potter actor Williams as the titular crime-solving Roman Catholic priest, on hand to restore calm and tranquility to a bucolic town in the Cotswolds, which happens to have an alarmingly high murder rate.
“What the BBC has provided is a sense of continuity and belonging and warmth, which the radio has been doing for nearly 100 years of course, and that’s a very nice place to be for a show like this that’s seen in 230 territories around the world,” Williams told RadioTimes.com.
“And we do have a global presence and that presence is one of warmth and comfort for people. And it offers storytelling at a high level every week for people, and so to do that for 100 shows is quite a privilege. It’s something people really need and want and express their love for a lot.”
John Burton, who plays Sergeant Goodfellow – the more intuitive officer to Jack Deam’s comically inept Inspector Mallory – suggested that the crime drama’s popularity is also down to its exciting guest stars, the lavish period costumes and its idyllic locations.
“Mark will tell you it’s about the storytelling… I think it’s more about the ingredients, if you like, that make up the perfect cake – the locations, the costumes, the great guest stars artists, the music; all the other stuff that come into the mix that make this wonderful show,” Burton explained.
“Father Brown is a bit like a comfy pair of slippers, viewers know what they’re going to get. It’s very formulaic. There’s a murder inevitably, the inept coppers turn up – that’s me and Jack – we get it wrong, and then Father Brown solves it and you see how he solves it with flashbacks. So the viewers know what they’re going to get and I think they’re very comfy with that.
“I think what’s good about that formula is that nothing bleeds into other episodes so everything is very episodic and you can watch it in any order. The storyline and scripts haven’t got too stupid yet like the Midsomer Murders ones, so we’re in with a shout still! We’ve had aliens, that was a dubious one, voodoo and jesters…”
Season 9 will feature the show’s 100th episode, called The Red Death, which is set on New Year’s Eve at a masked ball thrown by Lady Felicia [Nancy Carroll], with viewers finally meeting the enigmatic Lord Montague, played by Alexander Hanson.
Lady Felicia and husband Monty are hosting the elegant event counting down to 1954, only for their plans to be undone when the Minister of Defence is suddenly murdered by a masked figure.
The special will feature the entire ensemble cast, including the return of Emer Kenny as Bunty, and Alex Price as Sid, with Sorcha Cusack back as Mrs McCarthy, Burton as Sergeant Goodfellow, Deam as Inspector Mallory, and John Light as Hercule Flambeau.
There will also be guest appearances from Richard Dillane, Gemma Page, Caleb Frederick, Nicholas Audsley and Cam Spence.