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story.lead_photo.caption Tom Brittney (left), Robson Green, and James Norton costar on the "Materpiece Mystery!" series, "Grantchester," return for a new season on PBS. (PBS/TNS)

PASADENA, Calif.—There'll be a new vicar in town when "Grantchester" returns to PBS' "Masterpiece Mystery!" Sunday. And while he's ministering to his flock and coping with his own truant feelings, so's the guy who plays him.

Even though actor Tom Brittney seems born to the backward collar and the pious calling, he's an atheist. "I wish I believed in heaven and wish I believed in God," he says.

"It would mean there's something after death, and I would see the people I love again. But I know in my heart that's not true. All power to people who do. I love the idea of spirituality," he says.

"I think that's separate from religion. It's organized religion I'm not a believer in. I just disagree with organized religion being used to oppress people—that's the thing."

It took Brittney six ragged years to work his way up to playing the Anglican priest in "Grantchester," beginning with an Intel commercial, moving on to several fruitless visits to the United States during pilot season and ascending finally to roles in "Outland," "UnReal," "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool" and the upcoming Tom Hanks movie "Greyhound."

"Playing a vicar was interesting," he ponders. "I got to find out how the mind works of someone who has this calling from God that they believe so strongly in that they're willing to give their life to it."

It's not so different for the British-born Brittney, who's always known what he wanted to devote his life to. He longed to be an actor. But he is also a rebel, bucking tradition when it's not wise to do so.

"I was a bit of an angry, rebellious teenager," he admits. "I made everything a lot harder for myself and probably made school a lot harder for myself because I was a rebel without a cause," he says.

Zoologist Confronts The Outback

Daredevil Jack Randall is a zoologist and former apprentice to naturalist Steve Irwin ("The Crocodile Hunter"). He will be plunging into the Outback to find the country's most exotic, wild and fear-inspiring animals on NatGeo Wild's new show, "Out There with Jack Randall."

The series will find Randall spelunking in forbidding caves with thousands of bats, prettying up to a python and launching himself into crocodile-infested waters. "My ultimate mission is to meet every species—up close and personal in the wild—and inspire others to fall in love with them and be moved to protect them and their homes," he has said.

Ever since he was a kid in England, Randall has been fascinated with animals. And he went on to earn a degree from Oxford in biological sciences. On Sunday's episode, Randall will cavort with the often-dangerous kangaroo (they kick like a mule) and will rescue an orphaned joey, hoping to prepare it for life in the wild on its own.


Sackhoff In Command Again

Katee Sackhoff is back from the range of "Longmire" and starring as an astronaut in Netflix's new series "Another Life," premiering July 25. She and her crew face mortal danger while on a mission to find the source of an alien artifact.

Sackhoff, who grew up in Oregon, is known for her take-no-prisoners roles. She played the female version of Lieutenant Starbuck when the popular TV series "Battlestar Gallactica" was remade by SyFy. She was a villain on "The Flash," and the tough-as-nails Dahl in "Riddick." Sackhoff admits that choosing to be an actress is a risky proposition.

"I have no idea how I got the courage to try acting," she says. "I think I grew up surrounded by men and boys, and so I think my father kind of raised me like he raised my brother—to not have boundaries for yourself. He always taught me I could have whatever I wanted."


Comedians Will Be Tickled Pink

Forty comedy acts will tickle each other right off the stage as NBC presents its new competition series, "Bring the Funny," which premiered Tuesday. Three stalwart judges will try to keep a straight face when they comment on the comedy of performers who will vie for a chance at a $250,000 prize and an appearance on the Just for Laughs festival next year.


Tribune News Service