Father Brown – new BBC series with Mark Williams

Mark Williams as Father BrownAs a long-time fan of the Father Brown stories by G. K. Chesterton, I have been eagerly anticipating the BBC’s adaptation. I’ve set up this page as an index of the show’s appearances on the Web.

Episodes

The first five episodes are summarised on the BBC Media Centre:

The making of the show

The Radio Times previews the series with a brief interview with the new Father Brown, Mark Williams:

‘He has a huge appetite for the detail of life and for humanity, and he cares very much about people’s souls. That’s the most interesting thing about him as a sleuth: it’s not him solving a conundrum or a crossword, he’s dealing with what he sees as people’s eternal damnation. And when he works it out, the sky turns black and is full of harpies; he’s desperately committed to his morality.’

Back in October I interviewed the BBC’s Producer Ceri Meyrick (@cerimeyrick) about the making of Father Brown.

The stories are set all over the world and in lots of different times – GK wrote them over a period of several decades, of course, but he died in 1936, so moving them to the 50s was a big change. We were advised that period shows work better if they are set within living memory, so that’s why we updated it. We wanted the TV show to be anchored in a time and a place – unlike the stories. My feeling was that the stories had a timeless feel to them anyway.

The show’s writer, Rachel Flowerday (@buskeroo), wrote for The Writer’s Guild about the creative process:

We spent a chilly December day driving around the Cotswolds, where we’d settled on setting Father Brown: the original stories have no precinct, with Father Brown popping up in Paris, on a boat, in a country house – great fun, but way too costly for daytime telly. We saw amazing houses, met a Reverend and toured the vicarage that became Father Brown’s presbytery, and over a pie-and-mash lunch in a local pub, locked down the gang of characters, era and Gloucestershire village setting of our interpretation of Father Brown.

'I’ve been a character actor for 25 years and nobody’s ever cast me for my sexual attraction... So it’s not something I worry about'

‘I’ve been a character actor for 25 years and nobody’s ever cast me for my sexual attraction… So it’s not something I worry about’ – Mark Williams interviewed in the Radio Times.

Rachel also blogs with another writer, Tahsin Guner about working together:

First, as is apt, a confession: before working on Father Brown, I’d never read a single word of GK Chesterton. Or written a murder-mystery. Or a period piece. Or developed a new TV series. I’d written numerous episodes of Holby City, as well as Casualty, Eastenders, and Doctors, but this was new territory. I was well outside my comfort zone – but I think that’s a good place for a writer to be.

If you’re interested in the soundtrack, the show’s composer Debbie Wiseman (@wisemandebbie) can be heard on BBC Radio 4 talking about her approach.

And finally, the scripts for The Hammer of God and The Flying Stars are available from the BBC Writer’s Room.

Reviews

Mark Lawson in the Guardian draws a parallel between Father Brown and Blandings, also launching this week on the BBC.

Although showing on consecutive days and not billed as part of a themed sequence, BBC1 next week launches two new shows offering a broadcasting equivalent of what art curators like to call a “conversation” between pictures hanging on opposite walls.

Apparently both are attempts to revive a style of drama that has fallen out of fashion – ‘warm, innocent, literary translation’.

Meanwhile, Robin Jarossi at Crime Time Preview was less than impressed:

Working out who the culprit is should not have viewers straining their analytical faculties to breaking point, despite the killing itself being a tad implausible. The formula is simple – whoever looks shifty is not the killer; the person who is not shifty is the killer.

Past Offences by Rich Westwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

About pastoffences

Past Offences exists to review classic crime and mystery books, with ‘classic’ meaning books originally published before 1987.
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7 Responses to Father Brown – new BBC series with Mark Williams

  1. Rich – Thanks for the information on this. I hope the series will be a good one and that we’ll be able to get it where I live soon. It looks to be well-done.

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  2. Sarah says:

    As I’m snowed in today, I’ve decided that I can justify sitting in front of the tv at this time of the afternoon. Thanks for the information.

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  3. Rapscallion says:

    Perhaps I am a dunce, but I simply cannot understand what is meant by making Father Brown into the ”Parish Priest” of a Roman Catholic Parish in an English Parish Church in the Cotswolds during the 1950s. Hasn’t the BBC heard about the Reformation yet? What beastly rot. Father Brown of G.K. Chesterton was indeed a Roman Catholic Priest, but this fiction of an English parish is incomprehensible. – Rapscallion

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    • vashumba says:

      The Catholic Church does indeed divide England into Parishes, and each has a Church or two. This is for the benefit of English Catholics. As an example, I grew up in the Catholic Parish of Ramsgate and Minster.

      But more importantly – when is this going to be released on DVD? I only caught one episode!

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    • Deadman says:

      Father Brown’s fine old church is just one of many mistakes in the BBC series. The stories in The Innocence of Father Brown explicitly relate that Father Brown has a little, modern chapel; in Chesterton’s “The Hammer of God”, Father Brown jokes about the old Church of England church (which was, of course, Roman Catholic before Henry VIII reformed his Church), “May I look inside your church? I hear it’s one of the oldest in England. We take some interest, you know,” he added with a comical grimace, “in old English churches.”
      It is an artistic mistake, and a travesty of Chesterton’s stories, to assign an old Church to Father Brown so casually and so inappropriately.

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  4. So I just discovered the series on my local channel here in the states, and just saw the Hammer of God, this is such a freaking long shot, but maybe someone can help me if they remember seeing the episode? I’m trying to find the name of the songs that were played by the strings quartet during the gathering right before the murder.

    I know the first song that was played when they cut from the scene of Simeon finding the wallet to the strings quartet was “La Cumparsita” and the last song was of course “Habanera” from “Carmen” performed by Lady Felicia. I read the script for the episode, and it says one of the other songs is “Por Una Cabeza”, which I can’t really tell, but there is this one song, the one that played when Norman was looking past Phillip Walker at Suzie, I need to know what song is that. So if anyone know the name or direct me to the list of songs, that would be great.

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