TV we’re watching: ‘Broadchurch’ on BBC America and Showcase in Canada

The UK is putting out some of the best dramatic television series in memory these days, intelligent, subtle and well-made shows like Sherlock, MI5, Inspector Lewis, The Fall, Endeavour, Luther, Midsomer Murders, Zen and Wallander. 

These are superior productions with psychological, artistic and story value that offer the only antidote to the dull reality and format shows that cram the airwaves.  It’s a trend that won’t go away, strengthened by glowing international response.  TV is in a new golden age.

And a new series has emerged that equals or exceeds all of these in scope, depth and strangely, beauty, the excellent Broadchurch. 

Set in a small coastal town in Dorset, oppressed by massive cliffs on two sides and the Atlantic Ocean in front, nature’s dark beauty dominates the series. 

 

A young boy, Danny Latimer is found murdered on the beach under the cliffs, a shocking sight in those parts, cinematically and emotionally as big as the cliffs and ocean.   

The murder and subsequent investigation reveals that the citizens of Broadchurch have many secrets, from Danny’s family and best friends, the villagers and newspaper people, the local vicar and constabulary.  There’s a vaguely threatening woman who lives in a trailer on the beach and an elderly shopkeeper who looks perpetually terrified, the hotel owner who’s having an affair with Danny’s father. 

All of them have secrets they want to protect.  All of them knew Danny. Investigators Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) are the centre of the story.  He’s in town temporarily, on the run from a reputation damaging scandal at home.  As abrasive as he is, Hardy has superior intellect and insights, not so his people skills.  He is suffering from a serious illness and hiding it.

Miller’s bitter that Hardy took the job and promotion she expected.  Her personality is warm and emotional, he’s cold and calculating, and they both have bad moments that affect the case.  Danny was her son’s best friend and the Millers are longtime friends with the Latimers.  Sometimes she can’t hide her emotions.  Her son Tom is seen deleting messages and texts on his phone.  Everyone has secrets.

Red herrings pose new challenges for the bereaved. 

A man approaches Danny’s mother Beth (Jodie Whittaker) to say he has messages from beyond the grave from Danny.  As repelled as she is, Beth is desperate for some kind of connection with Danny, and listens to the messages. The national and local media ramp up their coverage, both tabloid and respectable outlets want a part of Danny’s murder.

Beth is interviewed presumably to draw national attention to the story to help solve the mystery of who killed Danny, but the paper’s editor reckons the real draw is Beth’s English Rose beauty.  Local media, who knew Danny and his family, are walking a thin line between selling out and respecting the townsfolk.

The visual elements of Broadchurch are massive and splendid, outsize and abnormal.  Those cliffs (shot at West Bay and Clevedon, UK) stand in judgment of the townsfolk, overshadowing life. 

A walkway snaking across the clifftops is perilously close to the edge and a constant danger.  The ocean is dangerous.  Everything about the scenery and setting is both dangerous and deeply beautiful.  The weather affects the people, the skies, the water and the darkness. 

One night, a boat is in flames out in the water in front the cliffs, a fitting metaphor for this awful new life in Broadchurch.   So much is going on in Broadchurch under what appears to be a normal surface.  A murder has broken the usual silence and released swirling chaos, like a bee hive poked sending out the agents of darkness.

There are eight episodes in Broadchurch, Season 1 and shooting for the Season Two is set to begin in 2014.   Broadchurch Won the Best British TV Programme or Series Freesat Award and three nominations at the Monte Carlo Television Festival.

And Fox is planning to shoot an American version.

Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.

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