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Father Brown

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by Greg Bakun

This month we return after an absence to take a look at some of the jewels that are being offered from Acorn TV. I start my journey through this amazing catalog of  television to look at a vintage series from 1974 titled Father Brown.

Streaming News

After over 20 years and 13 series, Agatha Christie's Poirot is coming to an end. AcornTV will be celebrating this amazing run with streaming the final set of episodes starting July 28th with The Big Four. I want to celebrate this amazing series by running articles through out the month of August chronicling this final series. What makes this even more exciting is that the last 3 episodes (including the series finale Curtain) are exclusive to AcornTV before any broadcast or physical media comes out. This is not to missed!

For July, check out the U.S. broadcast debut of BBC's edgy crime drama The Field of Blood, Series 2 which co-stars The Walking Dead's David Morrissey. Acorn TV debuted Series 1 in June which co-stars Doctor Who's Peter Capaldi as well as Morrissey, among others. It's a fantastic series and, surprisingly, previously unavailable to U.S. audiences. Called "One of the best and most intriguing crime thrillers to be made in Scotland in a long time" (Sunday Mail). I actually almost reviewed this series over Father Brown.

Synopsis for The Field of Blood: Paddy Meehan (Jayd Johnson, BAFTA Scotland winner for Best Actor/Actress) is a new kind of heroine. A young, female, feisty and funny trainee reporter, she often oversteps the mark between reporting crimes and solving them - while sometimes becoming part of the crime along the way. Set in the gritty Glasgow of the early 1980s and based on Denise Mina's popular novels, this gripping BBC series was nominated for multiple awards.

Series leaving AcornTV soon:
Black Books
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Genius of Britain
The Guilty
The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes
War and Peace

New Shows

New Shows Added July:
Three Miniseries from Dennis Potter: Lipstick on Your Collar, Cold Lazarus, and Karaoke. *
Agatha Christie's Poirot
Series 7 & 8 * Image 19
Martin Clunes' Wild Life
The Grand
Field of Blood 2 *
Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Big Four (July 28th)

New Shows Being Added in August:
Agatha Christie's Poirot: Dead Man's Folly
Agatha Christie's Poirot: Elephants Can Remember*
Agatha Christie's Poirot: Labours of Hercules*
Agatha Christie's Poirot: Curtain*
Vera Set 4*
The Story of Medicine*
Republic of Doyle 2* Image 20
Lovejoy Series 3*
David Suchet: In the Footsteps of St. Paul*
Britania High+

*Notes exclusive series to AcornTV

Brit-Streamimg Spotlight

Father Brown

I have spent some time away from Acorn TV. Just recently was my first time back logging into the system and catching up to see what they have been doing with their streaming site. Once I logged in, I was overwhelmed... and that was definitely a good thing!

As a massive fan of British television and having quite a few titles myself that I own on DVD & Blu-ray, I am always on the lookout for something I haven't seen before. I would have thought that after nearly 25 years of collecting and watching all sorts of programs that come out of the UK, I would have been well-versed with just about everything. I'll even take it a step further, since I do reviews of Acorn's physical media output on my own site, I would have known everything they offer. I don't. That's exciting to me.

I looked around on the Acorn TV site just browsing. When I last looked at their site, they had a good deal to offer. Now, there literally is something for everyone. I just would click through the pages of what was being offered, saying to myself out loud, "ooh, I want to see that and that. Oh, and that too." I talk about myself being a massive fan of British television but I am by no means the only one. It doesn't take much for me to talk with someone who is a big fan of this genre well beyond the confines of Downton Abbey. There is plenty for everyone here.

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What is so nice to see is the breadth of diversity in the programs. Sure, everything is technically British television but there is so many sub-genres in it. It's equally good for Acorn too. They may get an unfair reputation of being the ones who only releases Poirot and Midsomer Murders but there is a lot of content here that stretches well beyond that. I was surprised by the older series from the 1970s and series that obviously run right up to today. There is a healthy balance between mysteries and comedies; drama and book adaptations. The fact the AcornTV had made the library of Athena documentaries available too is pretty cool. Once again, I was really unsure what I was going to watch. This is a truly amazing experience for me. It's like a small playground with a bunch of toys.

I really had a hard time deciding what I wanted to watch. There was a program I figured I would start with but once I started to look at what was available, I changed my mind at least a dozen times. Finally I decided to stick with my original decision. I decided I was going to watch Father Brown.

The Hammer of God TX: 9/26/1974

Let's start this out with a bit of humility and honesty. I will be the first to admit that I, myself, consider myself a pretty decent resource for British television. I know my stuff. I can rattle off a ton of series, who was in it, production codes, production crew, etc. Yet sadly, I thought Father Brown was a new series. I thought it was contemporary. Not only was I wrong but I was horribly wrong. Now to be fair, there is a 2013 version that was made by the BBC but I was thinking about this series. Father Brown was a series of books that started in 1911. He was created by G.K. Chesterton who based the character of Father Brown on Father John O'Connor. Father Brown simply was a Roman-Catholic priest that solved crimes.

I took a look at the first episode of this series. It was based off the short story The Innocence of Father Brown published in 1911.  Whereas I had thought the series was about Father Brown living in one village or one parish, he actually appears to be more of a traveler. In this episode, he is traveling through a village where there is a Colonel who is simply not a good person. He is a bully and a womanizer. He is well known for this around the village. He has been taking advantage of the blacksmith's wife Elizabeth Barnes for a while. He still believes in his rights of a feudal lord from back in the old days where he can take advantage of whomever he likes. The problem is that his brother is the vicar of the village.

It's a very simple set up that is seen in a lot of murder mysteries. Someone who is so rotten to so many people who all want to see him dead. There would be no shortage of suspects. Sure enough when we get to Act 2, Colonel Bohun is murdered outside the church by a hammer with such brute force that it cracked the Colonel's skull wide-open. While they didn't show on screen exactly that, I thought it was surprisingly gruesome for a series produced in 1974. It is pretty easy to figure who the prime suspects in this. Virtually everyone had a reason to kill this man.

The thing about Father Brown, at least in this episode, is that he just sits in the background very unassuming. He is listening intently to everything that is being said, yet he doesn't enforce his opinion on anyone. One could almost forget that he is even in the room when any of the suspects are questioned. Even with this very quiet demeanor, he seems to garner trust amongst people very quickly. He tends to be a very reassuring figure and appears to be more trusted on the outset than the vicar of the village who has been in residence there for years.

"Doctor, there's a very good reason why a man of my trade should keep things to himself when he's not sure of them... because its his duty to keep them to himself when he is sure about them."- Father Brown

Kenneth More quietly plays Father Brown. I will admit I haven't seen much with him before. He was a star in film in the 1940s but played the part of Young Jolyon Forsyte in The Forsyte Saga from 1968 for the BBC. Graham Crowden played Colonel Bohun. He plays the part as someone who thinks everyone is below him like ants. He enjoys torturing and stepping on the ants. Crowden has had many parts through the years making him a well-known name in British television but he may be best known over here for his role of Tom Ballard on Waiting for God.  His brother, the vicar, was played by William Russell. Russell was well known to the British public for his role of Sir Lancelot in the late 1950s but is also well-remembered for the role of Ian Chesterton in Doctor Who.

Overall the episode is quite good. It's a strange first episode in some ways because we really don't get a proper introduction to Father Brown. He just kind of shows up and is visiting a church that isn't even part of his religion. As mentioned above, there is some very classic storytelling to this episode. Even though Colonel Bohun is nasty to everyone, it really is a tale of two brothers. One good and one evil. It works very well for this story as the village is very god-fearing. Many of them believe that Colonel Bolun will literally be struck down by lightning and when he is killed by the hammer with such a massive blow, many believe it is god's work being done.
I have not read these novels but I assume the tone is picked up from them and it is a very heavy religious tone. There is a lot of quoting from the bible and verses being read to get a character's point across. Elizabeth Barnes' husband Simeon is a preacher in his own right and quotes verses often. It was too the point that I was confused whether this was for this episode or if this was the tone of the series.

The production of the series follows a typical production of its time. The interiors shot on videotape with the exteriors captured on film. I don't know why but I love this type of production method. The thing I worried about is how a vintage program like this would stream, especially as it would need to be upresed to 1920 x 1080 and it's streaming. It looks fine. Does it look old yes but as a British television purist I am extremely grateful to Acorn for leaving the Idents in place at the beginning of the episode and the bumpers in between the episodes as would have gone into a commercial break. That sort of thing is important to me.

The end of the episode is not surprising in terms of who did it. It may have been a surprise in 1974 and very probably a shock if reading it in 1911 but sadly real life headlines make this resolution to the episode seem almost normal. That being said, just because something is a little simpler, does not make it bad. Not everything needs to be "clever" with multiple twist and turns. Straight story-telling is always a winner with me.

Is there something you want me to review from Acorn TV? Just let me know!

Coming Soon

Next time I will be looking at one of two things. I may try to sneak in a look at The Field of Blood that is listed above in the Streaming News section. It takes place in the early 1980s and I started watching a little bit of it a few days ago. I know this is clearly a series that once I start to watch, I will not want to stop. It looks phenomenal. If I don't write about it, I know I am at least going to watch it. Starting at the end of July, I will be running a series of articles looking at the final episodes of Agatha Christie's Poirot. This is a big deal to me as I have been a fan, like many others, for a long time. Let's celebrate our favorite Belgium sleuth together!

Like what you see? Hate it? Have questions of comments? Send us an e-mail and tell us what you think!


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 4, 2014 11:45 AM.

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