Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo cannot now recall whether some friend of the decanter recommended them to him or not, but I’ve been trying out the Beeb’s recent “Father Brown Mysteries” with Mark Williams in the title role.

I have to confess that after watching the first three episodes, I’m not really all that impressed.  I don’t hate the show, mind you, but I don’t feel much desire to whistle up the next DVD from Netflix, either.

For one thing, there is of course the total impossibility of translating GKC’s extremely lush writing style into a screenplay.  (The way he describes a scene is every bit as important as the substance of the scene itself.  Want a perfect example? Read his description of the arrival of Innocent Smith at Beacon House in Manalive.  It’s overwhelming.)  There’s also GKC’s overriding theme that Faith and Reason are not antithetical, but in fact are allies because God Himself is the ultimate Reason.  It’s not that the shows seem disrespectful, exactly, but that they seem to scootch past this as quickly as possible to get on with the sleuthing.  (Perhaps this was just an early hook to pull in viewers and these deeper issues get more treatment in later episodes.  I just don’t know.)

Discounting that, however, I have some other nits as well.  For instance, the show seems to not include M. Hercule Flambeau, a reformed French mastermind of thievery and Father Brown’s usual companion, at all.  In the books, Brown often delivers his piercing observations on human nature and the eternal battle between Good and Evil in his discussions with Flambeau, but here he obviously can’t.   Instead, to the extent he says anything at all, Brown’s conversation seems to be directed toward a regular cast of side characters, including a nosey church secretary, an outrageous village flirt, some kind of Eastern European maid, and a snarky chauffer, none of whom I recall from the original stories.  Then there’s the local inspector, who I’d swear had the same lines in all three episodes I watched: “I’ve got motive and opportunity, and that’s enough,” and, “I’m placing you under arrest for suspicion of the murder of [X]”.

And that’s another thing.  In the GKC stories, Father Brown (and M. Flambeau) find themselves in various locales around GB and the Continent.  All the action in the shows seems to take place in the same small village, which would lead one to think the place must be awash in blood and to wonder just how long it can last with all of its denizens being snuffed out one after another.

All that said, I don’t think Williams is especially bad in the role of Father B, although I think he’s too physically large for the part.  (Brown is supposed to be a little, unnoticeable man.)  No doubt he was cast because of his ability to bug his eyes out and purse his lips in distracted contemplation.

And on that note, I would still love to see Alec Guinness’s turn in the role.  I should think he would have been perfect.  And if I am not mistaken, I believe I read somewhere that the exposure to the Faith that Guinness received through his playing of Father Brown was a big factor in his decision to swim the Tiber himself.  (When I went to the devil’s website to find this film, I saw it was only a couple bucks.  So why not?  Guess I will see it.)

Anyhoo, I think I’d give this series two glasses of port (and maybe an extra sip) out of five.