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'Grantchester' Returns to PBS with Season 5
June 14, 2020  | By David Hinckley

With the menu of fresh TV feeling slimmed-down these days, PBS is doubtless delighted to bring back a proven winner: Grantchester, whose Season 5 premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on Masterpiece Theater (check local listings).

Fans of the previous four seasons won’t need any encouragement to return to Grantchester, that small picturesque British village with the disproportionate share of puzzling murders.

Thankfully, the murders are all soluble, thanks to jaded Detective Geordie Keating (Robson Green, top) and The Rev. Will Davenport (Tom Brittney, top), whose day job as a vicar doesn’t keep him from hanging out with Geordie whenever there’s a murder, which as noted a moment ago, is pretty much all the time.

It’s a lively series, filled with lovely scenes of small-town Britain and a quirky enough cast, so it feels like character drama as well as police procedural. And since it’s on PBS, it handles all its business without graphic language, sex, or violence.

To be honest, none of that is missed.

Season 5 does, however, plunge fans back into a central point of discussion from last season: How well does Brittney’s Davenport replace Geordie’s original vicar sidekick, James Norton’s Sidney Chambers?

The answer, for better or worse, is that the jury is still out.

Will Davenport has some of Sidney’s traits, like a fondness for drink and an anguished relationship with God. There’s a little of the “I’m not worthy” thing and a little of the “Is this really God’s plan?” thing, which permeates some of his detective work as well.

Still, some fans are going to keep missing Sidney, and while TV characters leave shows somewhat regularly, this particular swap-out was a little trickier than a simple one-for-one.

Will has to become his own distinct character. He also has to feel consistent with the character who anchors the James Runcie Grantchester book series on which the TV show is based.

Brittney, a fine actor, had some trouble finding that balance last season, and the challenge continues early this season.

Perhaps partly as a result, we now get more of the supporting characters, including the closeted gay minister Leonard Finch (Al Weaver) and the often-scowling housekeeper Sylvia Chapman (Tessa Peake-Jones).

That’s to the good. They’re both given interesting stories, most involving significant others. We also get a touching subplot with Geordie’s wife, Cathy (Kacey Ainsworth). While none of these have much to do with solving the murders, they flesh out characters we like.

The most encouraging sign is that Will pops out a bit more as the six-episode season moves along. There’s a bit more separation from Sidney’s ghost, perhaps, and also a hint of potential romance with newspaper reporter Ellie Harding (Lauren Carse).

Ellie also a giant annoyance to Geordie, which makes this part of the story more fun.

Season 5 is sturdy enough. The question may be whether it’s percolating well enough to keep it going into a sixth season, and that’s a mystery yet unsolved.

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