Saturday, February 07, 2015

Tomorrow night brings, at last, the "Better Call Saul" premiere, and another episode of "Grantchester"


Bob Odenkirk talks to Jimmy Kimmel about Better
Call Saul
, and shows him some, er, surprising clips

Jimmy tells Bob he's really enjoyed the two episodes he was given to watch. Bob tells Jimmy he's only seen one -- but hopes the second one turned out well. "I spent 14 hours on my knees in the desert for that second one."

by Ken

Okay, friends, it's finally here: the two-night premiere of AMC's Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul, created and overseen by Breaking Bad mastermind Vince Gilligan and collaborator Peter Gould -- tomorrow and Monday nights at 10pm (or possibly some other time where you are -- you know about checking your local listings, right?). Then, as a commenter noted her previously, the show settles into the Monday-night time slot. (That's a great relief for me. Sunday is the one night of the week I can barely manage, even with the DVR at full throttle.)

In a more "normal" clip, the creative team and cast
introduce us to "The Characters of Better Call Saul"


In Episode 1, the vicar of backwater Grantchester, Sidney Chambers (James Norton), has his seemingly inauspicious but in fact fateful first meeting with local police Inspector Geordie Keating.

It sounds like a scraping of the bottom of the British-mystery-possibilities barrel: In 1953, the vicar in an English backwater, who suffers nightmarish wartime flashbacks, teams up with the local police inspector to -- yes! -- solve crimes. (It's based on a series of Grantchester Mysteries by James Runcie.) And yet, three episodes in, out of a first series of six (Episode 4 airs tomorrow night on most PBS stations, but again, check your local listings), I'm not only enjoying it but looking forward to more.

Certainly an important part of that appeal is the interestingly delineated pair of central characters.

James Norton and Robson Green talk about the show.

Sidney, for starters, isn't just any vicar. Oh, he's totally serious about his job, but it's not lost on anyone, least of all himself, that he's a heartthrob-quality hunk with unconventional interests, at least for a vicar, including a soul-mate-type relationship with ravishing young Amanda (Morven Christie), the upper-crust daughter of a "sir" of some sort, a schoolmate of Sidney's scholarship-student sister Jenny (Fiona Button).

Although Sidney's relationship with Amanda showed signs in Episode 1 of significant degress of inappropriateness, there is of course nothing inherently inappropriate about an Anglican priest enjoying the company of women. In fact, a lot of Sidney's parishioners, not to mention the vicarage housekeeper Mrs. Maguire (Tessa Peake-Jones), seem concerned that he still isn't married, as a proper vicar ought to be. What's never stated, and took a slow-on-the-uptake viewer like myself a couple of episodes to puzzle out, is that a match between them is unthinkable on grounds of class incompatibility.

Despite Sidney's history of hobnobbing with his social betters -- it's not hard to see why he was so popular among Jenny's heavy-breathing schoolmates -- and his status as vicar allows him to fraternize, up to a point, as we see in this clip from Episode 2, he's treated by Amanda's father, Sir Edward Kendall (Pip Torrens), with a combination of long-time acquaintance and a condescension that borders on contempt. (It won't be long before we see Sir Edward's condescension cross theborder.) In the clip we see Sidney suffering through an engagement party for, yes, Amanda! The guests include his sister Jenny (the blonde) and her escort, Johnny Johnson (Uweli Roach), and insufferable other school friends.

Inspector Geordie, meanwhile, is thoroughly, defiantly, chip-on-his-shoulder working-class, and it's quite charming to see Robson Green in a role that makes no claim to stylishness or glamor. And I think he's quite terrific here. Geordie is as dedicated to his job as Sidney is to his, and once Geordie begins to discover that the vicar is almost as much an outsider relative to the area swells as he is, he mellows enough to allow for the possibility of a friendship. That friendship is handled much the way of one of the all-time great screen friendships, that of Mary Richards and Rhoda Morgenstern: By the end of Episode 1, the possibility of a thaw was established, and by Episode 2 they were best friends.

The friendship between Sidney and Geordie is as intriguing and appealing as it is improbable. Now we just have to hope that the creative team continues to find crimes that can plausibly be solved by the copper-and-priest crime-fighting duo.

It should still be possible to catch up with the earlier episodes online or "On Demand." The PBS Masterpiece website has Episode 1 (through February 15), Episode 2, and Episode 3. If you miss Episode 4, I expect you can find it in turn in the same places.

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