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PBS Brings British Drama to the Summer: 'Grantchester' and 'Beecham House'
June 14, 2020  | By Mike Hughes  | 3 comments

As TV's summer takes hold, we covet the few places that have plenty of new shows.

There are streaming networks and premium cable channels, of course. There are games on ABC, reality competitions on NBC, quirks on CW, and news everywhere. And, especially, there's PBS. 
PBS had already planned a cascade of women's rights shows, leading to Aug. 26, the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote. It has quickly added coverage of COVID-19 and of race relations. And it also has what it does best – elegantly crafted British shows each Sunday.

That starts tonight (check your local listings for specific days and times) with a 1-2-3 punch: At 8 p.m. ET, a portrait of Prince Albert; at 9 p.m. ET, the season-opener of Grantchester; at 10 p.m. ET, the debut of Beecham House.

The Albert special is just a one-shot, to be followed June 21 by the three-part Lucy Worsley's Royal Myths & Secrets. But the dramas continue all summer, joined in August by Endeavour.

There is one catch here. (There always seems to be.) Both Grantchester and Beecham have some story problems. Still, they are done with such class that we'll kind of forgive any flaws. Details include:

Grantchester: Based on short stories by James Runcie, Grantchesteris set in the 1950s, in a sweet-looking village alongside Cambridge. An earnest Anglican priest (James Norton) helps solve crimes with Geordie Keating (Robson Green), a weary cop who's a World War II veteran.

The result has been popular – so much so that Norton became a star and left early in the fourth season. By happy coincidence, the new priest, Will Davenport (Tom Brittney), also happens to be young, handsome, single, and fond of solving crimes.

Will is a former rich kid with a disapproving mother, a motorcycle, and a tenuous romantic history. He has rediscovered celibacy (not an Anglican requirement), to the dismay of an attractive local reporter.

These are richly developed characters, especially when you add Will's assistant (Leonard Finch , a closeted gay man played by Al Weaver), their housekeeper (Sylvia Chapman , a temporarily happy newlywed, played by Tessa Peake-Jones), and Geordie's hectic family.

Indeed, Grantchester spends so much time on the characters that its mysteries are sometimes thin and quickly settled with confessions blurted out with astonishing ease.

That's true of the June 14 opener, for instance, which has some young Cambridge women clinging to secrets. Twice they try to be hidden in woods that seem to be maybe three trees deep.

Despite the plot flaws in some episodes, Grantchester is written, acted, and filmed with the subtle skill we expect from the British.

BEECHAM HOUSE: Now we're late in the 18th century, with the British and the French clutching for the soul (and the riches) of India.

Arriving is John Beecham (Tom Bateman, top), who is sort of "Hasselhoffish," both in his look (tall, handsome) and his range (limited). We meet him in a brief shoot-em-up prologue, then see him reach his massive Delhi estate.

Once a soldier for the East India Trading Company, he now plans to be an honest trader – if he gets permission. By the end of the first hour, we've met two young and single Englishwomen plus his privileged mother, his wayward brother, a mystery baby, and lots of Indian workers.

Most of the roles fit convenient stereotypes. Performances are adequate, hampered by stiff dialog. We would switch away from this, except the settings are so elegant, and this is programming in the summer when we really appreciate a healthy burst of British drama.

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Jeffrey Hollis
Susan bettigole: there is no narrator. Check the "accessibility" settings on your media player or TV.

Now back to this story: Beecham House a single series which aired last year. Grantchester all six episodes of series five have aired. Is the idea of this article to simply encourage your readers to rediscover these programs by way of PBS? If so, you may want to encourage readers to become PBS subscribers. Subscribers have access to both of these programs and dozens of others.

Additionally Grantchester series 1-4 is available to Prime members. PBS subscriber can watch series 5 on Amazon or the PBS app.

After I chose save $380 a month cutting the cable cord, I opted to use some of those funds for excellent programming with a purpose. PBS was at the top of that list. Cheers!
Jun 18, 2020   |  Reply
Thank you for clearing up the actor, Tom Bateman, in the role of
Beecham. His beard gave me pause. I could not recognize him.
Jun 18, 2020   |  Reply
Susan bettigole
I absolutely loved loved loved grantchester and waited anxiously for the new series. The storylines were interesting and believable. I was absolutely appalled by the boring nonsensical story with happenings that didnt even mesh with that time period.BUT worst of all was the narration of every move and expression made .I want to observe and figure out things on my own .if something's not broken dont fix it. The actors are great Get rid of the narrator or I wont watch and I will be heartbroken thanks
Jun 15, 2020   |  Reply
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