A 2013 BBC television series adapted from the Father Brown
mystery stories written by G. K. Chesterton
, starring Mark Williams (who you might recognise
as Arthur Weasley
, Brian Williams
or, further back in time, part of Paul Whitehouse's team on The Fast Show
) as the titular mystery-solving Catholic priest.
The series takes some liberties with Chesterton's original stories. Where the originals were written and set between 1911 and 1936 and had the good father turn up all over the world, this series is set in the 1950s and positions Father Brown as the kind-hearted and insightful parish priest of the fictional small town of Kembleford in the Cotswolds. It also gives Father Brown a regular supporting cast, including Inspector Valentine (Hugo Speer), a long-suffering policeman who finds Father Brown interfering in his investigations more often than not; Mrs. McCarthy (Sorcha Cusack), the holier-than-thou parish secretary; Susie (Kasia Koleczek), a Polish refugee who works as Father Brown's part-time housekeeper; Lady Felicia (Nancy Carroll), a wealthy socialite with a wandering eye and a frequently-absent husband; and Sid (Alex Price), a local handyman and petty crook whom Father Brown tries to keep on the straight and narrow.
The first season aired over two weeks in January 2013, composed of ten episodes; half were loose adaptations of Chesterton's original stories, and the other half were wholly original. A second series was commissioned and aired over the course of two weeks in January the following year, with each of the ten episodes airing on the weekdays between January 6th to January 17th. A third series was shown in January 2015.
- Affably Evil: The murderer in "The Daughters Of Jerusalem". As he prepares to kill Father Brown , he says "I'm looking forward to all this being over. Popping the question... maybe a kiddie or two"
- Amateur Sleuth: Father Brown.
- Arch-Enemy: Hercule Flambeau.
- Break the Cutie: Poor Oona in "The Grim Reaper". She bursts into tears in her first scene, and that's before Father Brown believes she's writing poison pen letters, people think she's an adulteress and spit at her in the street - and, oh, her husband has confessed to murder.
- Canon Foreigner: Aside from Inspector Valentine, who is based on a character who appeared in the early stories, all the supporting cast are original creations.
- Christianity Is Catholic: Subverted in the first episode, which features members of the Church of England, but on the whole the series tends to feature and revolve around Catholicism, and most of the main characters are Catholic. Of course, since the show openly and clearly revolves around a Catholic priest, this is justified.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Befalls Susie after the first series.
- Cold Reading: Father Brown accurately pegs this as part of the methodology of Kalon, the leader of the cult-like Church of Apollo. Unfortunately, it manages to work on Suzie, who has been feeling particularly vulnerable, prompting Father Brown and Sid to try and extract her from Kalon's clutches.
- Curse Cut Short: Surprisingly, Father Brown utters one of these at the end of the Series 2 episode, "The Mysteries of the Rosary". After finding the titular rosary, he produces the small silver case in which he'd kept it from the lockbox in order to present it to Professor Ambrose. In its place, however, is a note from mercenary-slash-thief Flambeau. Cue the priest exclaiming, "The thieving-"
- Eureka Moment: Not surprising in a mystery series. One notable moment is in "The Grim Reaper", when Oona realises there was no chaff in her husband's clothing, which means he couldn't have pushed Albert Tatton into the threshing machine.
- Evil Counterpart: Kalon in "The Eye of Apollo" is this for Father Brown. Both are devout men of faith, but where Father Brown believes in reason, is kind-hearted and sincere, puts the well-being of his parishioners first and cares only about Suzie's well-being throughout the episode, Kalon is a blind fanatic, is smug and duplicitous, is devoted to his church to the point where he is willing to sacrifice others to protect it, and lusts after Suzie and wants her for himself.
- The Exiles: Edward and Jia-Li become these in "The Prize of General Gerard". After Jia-Li murders Gerard rather than submit to being his mistress, she and Edward, who had fallen in love with each other, flee Britain with forged passports. Father Brown, having satisfied himself that Jia-Li was truly repentant for killing Gerard, turns a blind eye to their escape.
- Faux Affably Evil: The murderer in the episode "The Face of Death" is definitely this.
- Fed to Pigs: How the killer disposes of the bodies in episode "The Shadow of the Scaffold". This is discovered when a finger bone with a ring on it is discovered in the stomach of a pig being prepared for tripe.
- Genre Savvy: Sister Boniface in the "Bride of Christ" just loves being in involved in a murder mystery. She's even holding a copy of Agatha Christie's "Sparkling Cyanide" when the police come to interview her.
- Holier Than Thou: Father Roland in "The Daughters of Jerusalem" is incredibly pious and tends to look down on Father Brown because of it. It turns out to be over-compensating for guilt due to his love for a woman he met while a missionary.
- Inspector Lestrade: Inspector Valentine. Sullivan is a somewhat lesser example of this. While he does make arrests and attempt to progress the investigation, his knowledge almost always lags behind that of the "meddling" Father Brown.
- If Jesus Then Aliens: Raised in "The Eye of Apollo", where members of the sun-and-astral-spirit worshipping cult challenge Father Brown that, as a Catholic priest, he should be open-minded towards the possibility of otherworldly phenomenon of the type they preach. Father Brown points out that there is a distinction between what is possible and what is probable.
- L Is for Dyslexia: Lucia and Lady Margaret Galloway in the Series One episode "The Face Of Death". It's the fact that Lucia inherited the condition from her mother that leads Father Brown to solve the mystery.
- Light Is Not Good: Kalon, the sinister cult-leader in "The Eye of Apollo", wears beautiful and pristine white robes, in contrast to Father Brown's scruffy black cassock.
- Jerkass Has a Point: In the first episode, the loutish Norman Bohen is taunting the Catholics present at the Anglican vicar's party about their religious differences, and makes dismissive reference to the pomp and ceremony of Catholicism. While Father Brown's parishioners react with great offense, Father Brown himself has a look on his face that suggests that he thinks Bohen has a little bit of a point.
- Obfuscating Disability: The killer in "The Shadow of the Scaffold". Father Brown discovers this when he realises that they could not have seen they claimed to have witnessed unless they were standing up.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Gerald Firth, shot in the head by a sniper during the war. After managing to survive and make a recovery, albeit suffering from delirium in the process, he gives himself a name by which he's known for the majority of the episode in which he features: Kalon.
- Plot Driving Secret / Red Herring: With Father Brown being a crime mystery series, it's safe to assume that both of these pop up frequently. However, in "The Deadly Seal", the culprit - Natasha, Lady Felicia's goddaughter - decides to abuse Father Brown's status as The Confidant in order to throw investigators off the scent of the murder. By telling Father Brown in a confessional that Bishop Talbot was to be assassinated the following morning, Natasha forces the Catholic priest into a religious dilemma. Being unable to break the "seal of the confessional" and explain the situation, he elects to attempt to avert the assassination. While he succeeds, the episode reveals that the false confession was a ruse to hide the true plot; for her to kill Talbot's chauffeur/bodyguard on behalf of his wife, who in turn made a pact to kill Natasha's father who had abused her as a child, somewhat mirroring Strangers On A Train.
- Politically Correct History: Generally averted. A notable example is when a good character actually blackmails someone over the fact that he is homosexual. She will give the money to a good cause, but even so...
- In several instances, Father Brown's own political and spiritual attitudes can a bit closer to the twenty-first century than you might otherwise expect from a 1950s Catholic priest.
- The episode "The Last Man" touches on attitudes towards gays and Indians.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: Discussed by the show-runners here and here. Essentially, a lot of the main changes between the original stories and this adaptation are for reasons of cost and to adapt the show in such a fashion that it fits into the modern television landscape.
- Put on a Bus: Following his promotion to the rank of DCI in the London Metropolitan Police, Inspector Valentine makes way for a successor, Inspector Sullivan.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: After hearing the confession of Norman Bohen's brother in "The Hammer Of God" and the reasons why he committed the crime and doesn't feel guilty about either the crime or the possibility that Elizabeth could hang for it, Father Brown yells, "God! Is not! Your scapegoat!!" The fact that this is pretty much the only occasion over the course of nearly two dozen episodes in which the sleuthing priest raises his voice in anger/outrage, it isn't just the punctuation that emphasises the line.
- Race Against the Clock: In "The Shadow of the Scaffold", Father Brown has three days (as authorities wait for the results of her pregnancy test to come back) to solve a murder before the woman convicted of the crime hangs.
- Recurring Riff: The show's main theme is used in various forms and tempos as dramatic incidental music during many of the episodes.
- Shout-Out to Shakespeare: In "The Prize of General Gerard", Father Brown compares Edward to Hamlet, suggesting that like the Melancholy Dane, Edward was pretending to be insane as part of his plan to avenge his father. Edward believed that his uncle Gerard killed his father and seduced his mother. Turns out he was right.
- Touché: A silent one during the verbal duel near the end of "The Eye of Apollo". After Father Brown insists the falsehood of a central tenet of Kalon's religion, the cult leader's immediate comeback causes Brown to adopt a facial expression that could only suggest this.
Father Brown: "There are no astral spirits!!"
Kalon: "Says the man who believes in virgin births."
Father Brown: *lengthy pause, with a touché look on his face* "...sorry."
- There is a double meaning to this example, however, since Father Brown also says this before delivering Kalon with conclusive proof that his religion actually is based on nothing more than the delusions of a fevered and damaged mind: Kalon's religious symbol, which be believes to have been delivered to him by the aforementioned astral spirits, is in fact based on nothing more than his confused reaction to a doctor's stethoscope while under medical treatment.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: A one-sided version; Inspector Valentine gets very irritated with Father Brown's nosing into his job, but recognises that the priest often knows what he's doing. Valentine's replacement, Inspector Sullivan, arguably has a dimmer view of Brown's involvement. In the eight episodes in which he's led the police side of the investigation, from "Maddest Of All", up to the penultimate episode of Series 2, "The Grim Reaper", he's done little else but insist that the sleuthing be left to the pros. In the last episode of Series 2 "The Laws of Motion",he actually arrests Father Brown.
- Valentine's successor, Inspector Sullivan, has his own instance of this in "The Eye of Minerva". Having been made the scapegoat in a conspiracy initially involving a journalist and being charged with - and almost convicted for - murder, Sullivan makes his way back to Kembleford for two reasons: the town is the only place where he can prove his innocence and, whether he likes/approves of it or not, he knows that Father Brown's tendency to meddle will work out as more a help than a hindrance.
- The Reason You Suck: Father Brown delivers one of these speeches at the end of "The Curse of Amenhotep". It's pleasingly effective.
- Turn in Your Badge: In one episode Father Brown is told by his unamused bishop that he is going to lose his parish.
- Vehicular Sabotage: The Victim of the Week in "The Laws of Motion" has the brake lines of her car cut while she is participating in a hill climb.
- In "The Judgement Of Man", Sid makes the seemingly inconsequential announcement that the sparkplugs from the Rolls Royce have been stolen. It isn't until later in the episode that things become clearer. Although never depicted on-screen. it's safe to assume that Chip, aka Flambeau, stole the sparkplugs so that he would be able to befriend Lady Felicia to the extent that she would invite him to the Belvedere Gallery.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: For two people who make a big show of how much they don't like each other, Mrs. McCarthy and Lady Felicia do seem to spend an odd amount of time hanging out together.
- Whodunnit to Me: In "The Prize of General Gerard", Father Brown was evidently poisoned by cut-up tiger whiskers in his fish soup, and insisted on finishing the murder investigation, declaring that he was beyond hope and at least he can could function until he died. Turns out he didn't eat the fish soup; he was faking being poisoned because he reasoned that the killer was a person of conscience because he(or as it turned out, she) had researched a possible cure for the poison and even offered it to Father Brown.
- Wife Husbandry: "The Prize of General Gerard"; Gerard made it clear to Jia-Li, his Chinese-born adopted daughter, that he only brought her to England so that, once she was old enough, she would become his mistress, and even planned to have his nephew Edward committed to an asylum when he found out the truth. Jia-Li and Edward by this time were in love with each other, and Jia-Li murdered Gerard rather than submit to his desires.
- Wrench Whack: In "The Laws of Motion", the Victim of the Week is done in with a blow to the head from a lug wrench. The killers then plan to make it look like she died in a car accident.