“Grantchester,” the latest installment of PBS’s “Masterpiece Mystery!” is a new offering for lovers of phenomenons such as “Downton Abbey,” “Agatha Christie’s Marple” or “Sherlock,” and the premiere promises that it will be just as entertaining, if not more so, as the rest. “Grantchester” has all the makings of a comfortable 1950’s period drama: a sexy, unobtainable protagonist who solves crimes when he’s not preaching the word of God, beautiful shots of English countryside, women with killer lipstick slyly dropping hints, adulterous affairs and, of course, a suicide case that is much more complicated than it seems.


Series Pilot
Sundays at 10 p.m.

James Norton (“Happy Valley”) plays Sidney Chambers, a young vicar with a chiseled jawline and soulful eyes who unintentionally invites the confidence of those around him. After presiding over a funeral of a man who has apparently committed suicide, he is approached by a young woman who tells him in between puffs of cigarette smoke that there’s reason to believe the dead man was murdered — namely, the fact that he was unhappy in his marriage and was having an affair. Chambers agrees to investigate, irritating Inspector Geordie Keating, (Robson Green, “Touching Evil”), a grumpy, skeptical cop who eventually realizes it would behoove him to work with the vicar rather than get in his way. The two become friends as they pry into village affairs and poke their noses into the details of the murdered man’s former life, eventually solving the crime in a tidy 50 minutes.

“Grantchester,” albeit predictable, somehow manages to feel refreshing. It follows the formulas of crime procedurals and period dramas, from the elegant adornments of the mantlepiece that remind the dead man’s wife of their honeymoon to the gentle piano background music to the vicar’s morally upright landlady (Tessa Peak-Jones, “Poirot”). But it adds bits of tongue-in-cheek humor that keep the show relevant, especially concerning the tension between the religious and secular aspects of the not-so-sleepy little town.

Norton’s portrayal of his character as pleasant and open, rather than cynical and reclusive — as is characteristic of many of our favorite crime-solving heroes — also feels fresh. When Chambers figures out that he has solved the crime, based on a second closer reading of the supposed suicide note that actually is describing the man’s desire to end a relationship, not his life, Chamber’s excitement is palpable; he takes time to check on the people involved, instead of moving right on to the next crime with a yawn and glass of whiskey (although that comes later as well, to the constant surprise of people who insist on offering him sherry). Even the fact that he clearly has feelings for his adventurous friend Amanda Kendall, (Morven Christie, “Case Histories”) who has a new ring on her finger, doesn’t embitter him — not yet, anyway.

Don’t look for deviations from the script in “Grantchester,” because you won’t find them. There are no plot twists that break the pattern of a 50-minute mystery series — but there doesn’t need to be. “Grantchester” may feel familiar, but it’s the kind of familiar that goes along with curling up on the couch holding a pint of ice cream and a blanket on Sunday nights — the kind that we all need, at least every once in a while.

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