I had just about given up on the BBC as a source of edifying story-telling, when along came The Father Brown Mysteries (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2215842/). It’s got the acting, it’s got the writing, and it’s a treat for the eye. But more than that, it’s got a solid Christian message.
Mark Williams stars as Father Brown, the character originally created by G.K. Chesterton. The series is very loosely based on Chesterton’s detective stories. They’ve made Father Brown a humble parish priest in the little town of Kembleford, tucked into the lovely countryside of England in the early 1950s. The original Father Brown traveled around a lot, but this Father Brown’s mysteries come up to his doorstep.
What’s so great about a parish priest solving murders, week after week? Although he never fails to solve the mystery (and some of them are quite cleverly conceived), Father Brown never, never loses sight of his primary mission–to bring people closer to God. Especially people who have gone astray–even murderers.
Sure, it exasperates the local police inspector always to be the caboose with this meddling priest as the locomotive of the mystery-solving train. It would bug him even more, if he ever realized that solving the mystery isn’t even Father Brown’s top priority: he remains, under all circumstances, a man of God.
The writers very wisely set their stories in the not-so-distant past so that no one can demand that Father Brown start crusading for transgender rights or any such wicked nonsense as that. Sorry, nobody did that in 1952.
Father Brown’s tools are common sense, an understanding heart, love and compassion for the sinners under his care, an unshakeable commitment to serving God, a wry sense of humor, and humility. In episode after episode, he brings these tools to bear; and watching him work is not only a pleasure, but an inspiration. Like, wow, look at that! Godliness really is the most useful thing in the world–we could use a lot more of it.
Although most of the mysteries are murder mysteries, there’s no reveling in gory details. The overall tone is gentle, understated–rather like Father Brown himself.
We don’t have TV, so we bought the episodes on youtube, Seasons 1-3, and Season 4 on amazon.com. The show has been running since 2013, and we’re very glad to know that Season 5 will soon be available.
There isn’t much television like this, so grab it while you can.