Cindy and I are not just boomers. We’re streamers now. We cut the cable a few years ago. We had 99 channels with little to show for it.

We signed up for streaming channel after streaming channel. If you added them all up, the tab might equal the old cable bill. But you don’t get it as one fat number. It’s lots of little ones. Like getting soaked with raindrops instead of a water bucket. Doesn’t seem as bad that way.

British mysteries are high on the list. “Father Brown” is a favorite. The series is based on Father Brown mysteries by G.K. Chesterton. I understood him as a bit of a socialist.

For more about him, I went to Volume 3 of Encyclopedia Britannica. Yes, I could just Google these things, and I often do. But we have a shelf-full of the Britannica books, all dressed up in deep blue covers. I can’t let them just sit there.

I like flipping through the pages in search of a subject. It’s easy to get sidetracked.

En route to “Chesterton,” I paused at “chariot racing.” In Roman times, it happened, major chariot teams were divided into color groups. The encyclopedia cited a Roman satirist who said, “if the greens lost, the whole city would be downcast, as if some great national defeat had occurred.”

That sounds a lot like Phoenix after Game 6 in the 1993 NBA finals. John Paxson sank a 3-point shot in the final seconds, giving the Chicago Bulls a 1-point win over the Phoenix Suns. And the championship.

I’m pretty sure the whole city was downcast.

Next, I took in a picture of Charles II of England. It was painted in 1675. This was the era of big hair, or at least big wigs. And he didn’t care for pants, apparently. His nickname was the Merry Monarch. He liked to have a good time, despite the fact his father was beheaded.

That’s Charles I. He’s on the previous page. He had some issues with Parliament, so he was executed. The Puritan Oliver Cromwell took his place. But he proved too much of a downer. After a few years, everybody was ready for the Merry Monarch.

I eventually got to Chesterton. He died in 1932. He was 62. I didn’t see the word socialist, but he was described as a Distributist. He favored the distribution of land, from the haves to the have-nots. He was friends with H.G. Wells, the science fiction writer.

He converted from the Anglican to the Roman Catholic Church.

Many of his “Father Brown” books were written in the 1920s. The TV series takes place in the 1950s. Father Brown leads a church in some leafy part of England. A sleepy little village with lots of murders. Father Brown solves them all. And nearly always offers the murderer a chance to repent.

It’s never too late, he says. It won’t save them from the gallows, but Father Brown is thinking of the long term.

“Grantchester” is another show with a crime-solving preacher. It’s also set in a leafy English village, also in the ’50s. The man of the cloth is a vicar who leads an Anglican church. In earlier seasons, he has a fling with a woman not his wife. Father Brown wouldn’t even think of having a fling.

Well, if he ever thought about it, he kept it to himself. Father Brown, however, does like an occasional pint or a glass of wine. In England, a pint always refers to a unit of beer. Everything else is metric.

Father Brown has a sweet tooth, too. He’s been known to snatch a cookie from a bake sale when nobody’s looking.

This season in “Grantchester,” a new vicar shows up. Like the first vicar, he’s something of a hunk. So far he hasn’t had any flings. But he has solved murders. And, if you’re a crime-solving preacher, that’s Job 1.

The Grantchester vicar makes fast friends with the police inspector. Not so Father Brown. The inspector there finds Father Brown an irritant. Inspector Mallory will say things like: “Make yourself scarce, padre.”

The shows are entertainment, so they’re light on the theology. Still, the backgrounds have crosses and crucifixes, depending on the show. Plain crosses for the Anglicans. Crucifixes for the Catholics.

Both the father and the vicar see God as kind and understanding. And Father Brown says there’s good in the worst of us. So nobody’s a total loss. His God and the vicar’s seem a bit left of center, at least for the times.

The church secretaries, in both cases, are uptight and go by a less tolerant God. Scratch the surface, though, and you find a kind heart.

Neither cleric spends much time at the pulpit. Father Brown, for one, has never completed a homily, the Catholic equivalent of a sermon. On one show, he stopped in mid-sentence. He had just solved the murder and had to find the killer. And offer him or her forgiveness. So off he went.

The new vicar on “Grantchester” ended a recent show with a sermon. Cindy found it too hokey.

I just thought: “Why isn’t he out solving a murder, like Father Brown?”


Reach contributing writer Bill Coates at