THE cat is now firmly out of the bag. In Channel 4’s new Sunday-night drama series Ride upon the Storm, all can now see what clerical family life is really like. As the clergy in question are Danish, there are one or two minor points of difference from us which you might think it worth pointing out — possibly from the pulpit.
At the heart of the show is Johannes Krogh (played by Lars Mikkelsen), the patriarch of a family that has provided priests for the National Church for 250 years. As the first episode unfolds, he is about to be the first of them to be elected Bishop. In contrast with England, this is a public process: rival candidates are quizzed in open meeting. He sails through the first heat with a charismatic defence of Christianity — but, in the final round, a question about Islam triggers an ill-considered rant that reveals a range of phobias, and the mitre goes to his opponent, a woman.
Krogh responds to this defeat, as we all would, by going on a three-day drunken binge and having sex with an old flame against her garage wall. Perhaps, just for once, the Holy Spirit guided the electors.
His children exhibit biblical contrasts of character and destiny. The Good Son, a rising light in the Church, turns down a job in the cathedral and is deployed as an army chaplain. In this he shows an extraordinary lack of preparation, taking up arms in battle and killing an innocent woman. The Bad Son flunks out of theological college, cheats at university, is chucked out of the copany he has founded with his closest friend, and compensates by having sex with his friend’s partner.
This carnal irresistibility is — speaking from personal experience — another contrast between our two denominations. But the biggest difference is, of course, cash. In contrast with our own impoverished lifestyle, we witness a gracious, luxurious manse. The ruthless cost-cutting new bishop demands savings. Seeing the team of a smallish parish admit that it is, perhaps, hard to justify their second full-time professional organist will elicit hollow laughter up and down our dioceses.
This drama raises far too many issues; it is too rich a stew of current concerns and fashionable personal shortcomings. But faith and religion are presented as something real and important, and the Church’s ministry as a serious matter.
Steph and Dom: Can cannabis save our son? (Channel 4, Monday of last week) was the more powerful because its presenters had built a TV career on being easygoing and lighthearted: here, they spoke of their love and care for their son, Max, who suffers from severe autism and life-threatening epilepsy. They have sought every cure and alleviation for his condition — might medicinal cannabis help him? The programme ended curiously inconclusively: the drug is now legal, but none is available.