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The vicar of Grantchester and the wrong whiskey

The vicar of Grantchester and the wrong whiskey

Fans of the PBS series Grantchester will have noticed that vicar-sleuth, Sidney Chambers, has a taste for whiskey and ale. But not sherry, which people assume must be the vicar’s drink of choice. He drinks to get drunk at upper-class dinner parties with Amanda and her set, and with the detective Geordie Keating at the pub. Alcohol plays a role in every episode. It’s not giving the plot away to say the murder in Episode 1 is solved when Sidney realizes it’s the wrong whiskey.

In episode 2 [watch here through February 22nd!] a friend from school days slips him an article “Alcohol Consumption in the Post-War Male” — from flashbacks it’s evident Sidney suffers for post-traumatic stress disorder. Other times he’s drinking to treat love-sickness. He’s self medicating. Sidney’s housekeeper makes it clear she does not approve of his drinking — that he keeps a bottle in his desk drawer. And it’s plain that alcohol affects Sidney’s work.

How do you see the role of alcohol in the series? Is Grantchester raising important questions about alcohol abuse? Or does it glamorize drinking?

Posted by John B. Chilton



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Murdoch Matthew

The spelling whiskey is used by Irish and American distillers; whisky is preferred by their counterparts in Britain and Canada. Both spellings are used by Americans in general contexts, but whiskey is more common. . . . Some writers make a point of omitting the e when referring specifically to whiskey distilled in Scotland and Canada.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage

Mark Preece

There is a romance to the way the alcohol is shown, though it’s done in a way that suggests lessons may be learned in due course. And I’ve always envied pub-culture, even when it’s portrayed — as here — in a kind of gritty, bar-cultury way. But, to my shame, what I keep noticing about the show is how good that linen clerical collar looks compared the the nasty plastic things we wear!

Frankie Andreu

Indeed, I’ve always favored the linen collar. They are just so much more comfortable.

Bro David

You are a priest?

Not the bicyclist who helped bring down Lance Armstrong?

Brent Norris

I have noticed the use of alcohol and tobacco, every scene has a cigarette. At first I thought it was simply a directorial choice to be true to life at the time. (Used to teach theatre) Now I am leaning toward those social conventions as metaphors for denial and masking. Nothing happens in a scene by accident. On another topic, I thought the engagement with the issue of homosexuality was pretty spot on in terms of the time period depicted and thought it interested the way that various characters fairly represented the array of theological thought.

Howard Mitchell

In the stories, Canon Chambers is stated to have preferred a single malt.

Mark R. Collins

In the books, it was Bushmill’s Irish whisky, a product of Northern Ireland that the Ulsterman-murder victim was fond of. The whisky found on his desk was Scotch whisky. Inexplicably, the whisky in the TV show was Jameson’s, an Irish whisky made in the Republic of Ireland which is the Ulsterman’s tipple. I wonder why the switch?

But to the matter at hand, the show is doing a fairly good job of showing Canon Chambers as a person with problems, PTSD and drinking among them. It seems such an obvious part of the narrative that I’ve assumed it will be resolved in some way.

I like that the sherry issue keeps coming up. It subtly points to the fact that people presuppose all sorts of things about clergy. For instance, that they have a sip or two of sherry at most. Not so. That points to two problems: Sidney’s drinking, and people’s unthinking presuppositions about the clergy.

Ann Fontaine

From a Scot: If it’s the episode of which I think you’re talking, it was Jamiesons’, which is Irish Whiskey.

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