TV Crime Log: Brown, Bletchley & Hostages

608The first series of afternoon mysteries starring Mark Williams as GK Chesterton’s Father Brown did rather well for BBC1, banking a couple of million viewers, so it’s back again.

Once again, the second series is stripped across the next two weeks – every weekday at 2.15pm – with Mark Williams as the detective priest. In Chesterton’s stories, Brown’s parish was in London, but in this television version is set in the Cotswolds, likely because of the preponderance of French windows.

Look, the blurb for the entire week of Father Brown is going to take up too much valuable time, yours and mine, so let’s just agree we print Monday’s blurb and then, if you’re interested, you can go off in search of the rest. Yes? Good.

Father Brown is sceptical when a parishioner believes she’s being haunted by her sister who went missing years ago. However, when she herself vanishes, he must investigate both disappearances.

At Cudely Manor, Father Brown is startled by Charlotte McKinley, who wants an exorcism. Her sister Elspeth, who’s been missing for nine years, is not resting easy. Father Brown maintains that they don’t even know if Elspeth is dead and there’s no such thing as ghosts… as a chandelier drops and smashes where he was just standing.

The next night, Father Brown blesses the house with Charlotte’s husband Victor and daughter Selina in attendance. Afterwards, Elspeth’s portrait jumps off the wall and a distressed Victor flees the house, so Sid agrees to stay the night.

Later, Charlotte sits reading by the fire as Selina tries to frighten Sid in the hallway. The pair are spooked by a loud bang from the living room and run in to find it empty with the French windows locked. Charlotte has vanished into thin air…

These stand-alone mysteries work rather well in the afternoon. Gilbert Chesterton, after all, wrote a mighty 80 novels, but his intuitive detective only ever appeared in 51 short-stories.

THE_BLETCHLEY_CIRCLE_SERIES2There are more frocks in the new series of The Bletchley Circle tonight, about the former ladies of the wartime top-secret code-breaking HQ Bletchley Park – that’s them in that heavily-photoshopped image – who gather together to solve crimes.

It will take you barely a moment to decipher the blurb:

Set a year on from the first series in 1953, the ladies are reunited for their second case in the first two-part story when former Bletchley Park colleague, Alice Merren is accused of murder. Jean methodically sets to work examining the evidence and is intent on helping Alice after a distinguished scientist is discovered shot through the heart in the study of his home with Alice, gun in hand, standing over him.

The evidence is stacked against her, but Jean’s instincts tell her differently and she goes to visit Alice in Holloway Prison. Alice is quietly resigned to the fact she will hang.  But why has she offered no defence and why does she refuse to talk?

Jean calls on the ladies to reunite, but will they share her faith in Alice’s innocence?

The Bletchley Circle is on tonight at 9pm. It’s set in the 1950s, so there’s a good chance it’ll also feature French windows.

Hostages 2_A2As far as I know, french windows are in short supply in Hostages, which begins on Saturday on Channel 4, but we live in hope.

Channel 4’s programme notes optimistically describe it as ‘Hostages Series 1.’ But the show has been bumping along the bottom of the US-ratings since it started – as a serialized drama it’s perhaps harder to dump midseason – so I wouldn’t hold your breath for another series.

Hostages is based on an Israeli format, like Homeland, so perhaps Channel 4 is hoping lightning will strike twice with that 9pm slot.  Good cast, though: Toni ‘Muriel’ Collette and Dylan McDermott.

Some advice, from me to you. Don’t form an emotional attachment with the blurb:

Dr Ellen Sanders, a top surgeon in Washington, DC, has been called upon to operate on the President of the United States… and then kill him.

Ellen is used to the pressures of her job and it’s her steady nature that has advanced her career and made her the first choice of the President. But when masked men invade the Sanders home the night before the operation and take Ellen, her husband and their two children hostage, threatening to harm them unless Ellen does as they ask, her calm demeanour is rocked to the core.

Her husband, hiding secrets of his own, is not much help, but Ellen will do anything to protect her family.

Duncan Carlisle, an FBI agent and hero at the centre of a conspiracy involving the President, feels the same way about his own loved-ones. As chief hostage-taker, Duncan will fight for his cause at any cost, even if it means putting another family at risk.

With her nearest and dearest in peril, Ellen faces a huge moral dilemma. As tensions mount and she fights for time while preparing for surgery, it becomes clear that the outwardly idyllic Sanders family isn’t as perfect as originally thought, nor are their captors as evil as one might expect.

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