One thing I’ve often noticed about British TV is that members of the clergy (vicars, primarily) tend to be portrayed much more often than they do on American TV. Am I right about that? I’m trying to think of an American series other than the Father Dowling Mysteries, starring Tom Bosley, but I’m drawing a blank. (Well, okay, The Flying Nun. But that show aired in 1968.)
Which seems a shame, because British TV series about the religious life tend to be some of my favorites, regardless of their genre. Let’s look at some vicar- and even priest-rich Brit (and Irish) series, shall we?
1. The top entry here has to be, of course, The Vicar of Dibley. A comedy, and a very funny one at that, this series stars Dawn French as the woman vicar who arrives in the small rural village of Dibley and manages to shake things up in the very best way. Here she is introducing herself to the town. A vicar with a bob cut and a magnificent bosom indeed.
2. Of course, the one and only Father Ted. The focus here is on three mad priests exiled together to distant Craggy Island due to their many and various shortcomings: Father Ted “borrowed” funds from his last parish; Father Dougal is decidedly thick, and Fr. Jack can’t stop yelling obscenities. If that doesn’t sound funny to you, I wonder about you. It’s very, very funny, particularly when you throw their also-mad housekeeper into the mix:
3. Cadfael (based on the mystery book series The Cadfael Chronicles by Ellis Peters). Mystery goes medieval. Brother Cadfael uses his specialized botanical knowledge and his penchant for justice to solve crimes. I haven’t actually had a chance to watch this one yet, but I love the way Derek Jacobi rocks that tonsure monk cut.
4. Father Brown. This British mystery features a Catholic priest, based on G.K. Chesterton’s character of the same name. (Note: Although Chesterton died in the 1930s, this TV version of the series is set in the 1950s.)
5. Grantchester. Grantchester is so many things. A mystery show featuring a detective and an Anglican vicar. A bromance featuring those same two characters. An historical drama set in 1950s Cambridge. For personal reasons I feel very warmly towards Grantchester; when I was grieving a family member I would come home at night, snuggle up with Mr. GreatBritishTV, and watch another episode of Grantchester. It was just the right thing to occupy my mind and help me relax before sleeping. Oh, and there’s this: it features the prettiest Anglican vicar ever.
6. Rev. This is another one I’ve not seen; when, oh when, will I ever get enough time to watch all the British TV that I want to? But here’s what you need to know about this comedy series: Anglican priest Adam Smallbone is moved from his small, rural parish to an inner-city London church–think The Vicar of Dibley, in reverse.
7. Keeping Up Appearances. This show does not focus on a vicar, but rather on a thoroughly obnoxious, class- conscious matron (Hyacinth Bucket–pronounced “Bouquet”), her long-suffering husband Richard, and a solid supporting cast of Hyacinth’s decidedly lower-class family members and the neighbors she terrifies. The vicar in this program pops up quite frequently, as Hyacinth is always trying to involve him and his wife in her candlelight dinners and other schemes, but he is most of note for being good-looking. Hyacinth’s man-crazy sister Rose (“our Rose”) is always very happy when “that dishy vicar” shows up.
8. Every Agatha Christie adaptation ever made. Well, no, not really, but vicars often seem to pop up in her mysteries.
Still looking for more? Consider this list of vicar- and priest-rich programs from The Guardian. Oh, and you simply MUST read this article about “vicars” as a trope in pop culture. Now that is a comprehensive list!
How about you? Any fave Brit TV featuring religious types?