Archives for posts with tag: Broadchurch

There are moments when a show does so well people become desperate to copy its success. Broadchurch was brilliant TV, a tense crime drama about the death of a child that reverberated around a small community and exposed all its cracks. While not completely original, it was at least so well done it didn’t matter.

Netflix is now in on the act with its crime drama Safe, written by Harlan Coben. It centres on the disappearance of a teenage girl from an exclusive gated community and the death of her boyfriend. There are also a million different subplots, including a teacher accused of impropriety and the girl’s father rebuilding his life after his wife’s death, which will all presumably tie in somewhere.

Safe at times feels like a rather odd fish. On the one hand it wants to be gritty – it is, after all, about a missing child – with character’s heroically charging around council estates for drug dealers. Yet its main setting of this high-end community means it can’t help having a Desperate Housewives varnish on it.

This is also seen in some of its more ridiculous twists, not least when the family who are the viewers’ prime suspects border on the tragi-comic in the some of the scenes where they try to cover their tracks. Having said that, I have a high tolerance of, and even a bit of love for, such daftness. If anything, I wish the show was a bit more comfortable with that aspect of the plot.

Safe was also clearly designed for binging – characters briefly appear in an episode and then reappear in a later one with minimal context, suggesting that the viewer should only have seen them a few hours previously as opposed to days. For those of us that don’t binge, this becomes a test of memory.

Neither the odd genre fit nor the need to binge watch are insurmountable. What could be for some viewers is the return of my pet hate – British characters made by an American production team which means everyone must be Cockney or posh. This despite filming being in Cheshire, Manchester and Liverpool. To top it off, Michael C. Hall appears to have to gone to ‘speak with a mouth full of marbles’ school of learning an English accent. Every sentence sounds over-enunciated and drawn out.

But I’m invested now. There are enough decent plot twists to keep me going back as I reach the halfway point. This isn’t going to be the next big watercooler conversation, but it will titillate those who take the time to watch. All will rest on the ending though. Failure to provide the best one it can, and Broadchurch will be able to sleep easy atop the crime drama throne.


Scandi-noir has a lot to answer for, not least the plethora of pale imitations that it generates. Ditto Broadchurch, with its perfect representation of how a horrific crime can disrupt a small town. Combining these two sources is The Loch. It has the macabre deaths of Scandinavia and its dramatic but gloomy scenery with the small community of people with secrets of Broadchurch. Tartan noir mixed with McBroadchurch if you will.

We have the murder of a piano teacher, and now a local teenage tearaway, both dispatched slightly horrifically. Everyone has a reason to look suspicious, including the paedophile doctor and the ex-con living under a new name. A top DCI from the big city (Siobhan Finneran) is shipped in, upsetting local cops and bringing along with her a ‘celebrity forensic psychologist’. Oh, and there’s a man tied to the bottom of the loch that nobody has spotted yet.

It is as barking mad as it sounds. There’s the man being kept in a drugged coma by his mother, locals looking shifty at each other and random wolves popping up all over the place. It is as if the writers were given free rein to do whatever they like, but when it came to filming the budget kicked in and tripping over into the truly surreal Twin Peaks style was put on hold.

Nevertheless, despite (or maybe because of) its ludicrousness it is actually quite enjoyable. With nobody remotely acting guilt free we have a whole village of suspects, although if it is the local sergeant’s husband I will scream in despair. Once you acclimatise to it, the oddness becomes intriguing rather than distracting.

Of course, for me the making and breaking of crime drama is in how it handles the procedural stuff. This is where The Loch falls sadly short. The detectives seem to just barrel along, doing what the hell they like. If this ever makes it to court, the defence will have a field day with procedural errors. The whole case will collapse in the space of an afternoon. It didn’t have to be this way: Broadchurch, Line of Duty and even Scott & Bailey are proof you can talk procedure and keep the drama.

But maybe that’s the point – procedural dramas are already being done so well, why copy? Hang the technicals, forget the rules, and don’t even consider the paperwork. The eccentricities will be a distraction from all this.

Still, it wouldn’t hurt to hear a conversation about forms, or an interview of a suspect done with all the quiet suspense of the show’s rivals. It’s what a lot of us like. You don’t need to dial back the odd, just turn up the real.

American viewers would probably find several aspects of British TV strange, not least the fact that we often have to wait a long time for our shows to come back. In America, a series can end in May and be back September/October. Here, due to shorter season lengths, a show can run in January and February not be back until the same time next year, or even longer.

Take Broadchurch. Season one was out in March 2013. We then had to wait until January 2015 for number two, and the third only commenced in February of this year. Our friends over the pond wouldn’t tolerate this. But then, they have shows put together by teams, whilst many British ones are one-man band operations.

Furthermore, it is worth the wait. This series, the focus is on the rape of Trish Winterman. It is actually a good snapshot of the complexities of such a case. The perpetrator is known to the victim. The victim is traumatised and is only regaining her knowledge of what happened slowly. The shame she feels telling others, as if she was to blame. The muddying of the waters by her own recent sexual past – newly divorced and rediscovering single life. The incredulity of some of the officers on the case.

What creator Chris Chibnall does so well is slowly release drips of information and emotion. The tension isn’t created by fast-paced chases, but by the slow enveloping of the fog around people, for it to clear away at a similarly glacial pace. All this is punctuated by small explosions of emotion. Tempers are lost and then steadied. It is often the pushing down of emotion, as opposed to the unleashing of it, that drives the energy.

For example, the sub-plot of the aftermath of the events of the previous two seasons is handled beautifully. The parents of murdered Danny Latimer have gone down separate paths. Beth has rebuilt her life as a counsellor for sexual abuse victims, being the emotional pillar she so needed those years ago. Mark is on a path to destruction, angry at the lack of justice and wanting revenge. The scene where he is confronted by Beth is harrowing, not least the end where Beth walks away, denying she still dreams of their son. Her ‘no’ is almost choked, because of course she does, but she cannot carry on grieving.

In lesser hands, the ‘guess the rapist’ plot at the centre of this could be tacky. But it is the realness of it all, the fact that everyone is given convincing light and shade, that none of the men under suspicion are without darkness but also not pure monsters, that makes this show rise above it.

It goes without saying that the interplay between David Tennant and Olivia Coleman is as good as chemistry can get. Both playing out their own domestic dramas as they tackle the case. He, fearing his daughter’s every contact with a man, she, scared of her son following his father’s violent past. It’s telling how good this show is that, even with these two in it, plus the likes of Sarah Parish and Lenny Henry, star power never detracts from the strength of the stories.

This is to be the last series, which is sad. But also, it is the right thing to do. After a ropey second series, it is back on a high, and can bow it with its reputation of being a show that is both mainstream and challenging intact.

In my previous post I discussed the viability of some programmes returning to our screens after their premise has been filled. I made a brief reference to Broadchurch, citing it as a potential example of a show that had a satisfactory resolution that has had a second series tagged on to it to satiate the hunger from TV execs. I promised to return to it more in-depth as the series progressed to offer my assessment. Well, here it is.

The first question to be answered is ‘would just one series have sufficed’? In other words, did all the questions we needed to be answered get answered? Yes, it did, in that the killer was caught and the motive explained. It ended the way we wanted and expected. But also no, and it is the no that leads me to the second question.

This question is ‘Are there any more stories to tell?’ Well if the answer to question one is no, the answer to this question must be yes. For a start, let’s look at the existing characters. DS Miller’s life has fallen apart, both professionally and personally. Olivia Colman has nailed that blurred line of someone who has both been toughened up and broken down by events. And then there is DI Hardy, still haunted by his past mistakes. Having said that, the plotline of the Sandbrook case is currently not gripping me. It could be that Eve Myles is restricted to pulling ‘scared Bambi’ face for most of her scenes, or maybe that we don’t know this new community, so any twists and turns feel shallow.

One story definitely worth revisiting is that of the Latimer’s. Watching the court case tear at their family all over again is gripping. More importantly, we are shown the stark reality of being the family of the victim. More than on any other crime drama, we are shown that the grieving doesn’t stop at the point of arrest. It is permanent. The wounds inflicted them in the courtroom are painful because the original cuts have not even begun to heal.

Then there are new characters to consider. The animosity between the two QC’s adds a new frisson of tension. And how smart to name them after chess pieces – Knight and Bishop – when a court case is all about strategy. At the moment the defence seem to be winning, thanks to Miller and Hardy somehow running the most unprofessional investigation in history. There is clearly more background to these characters, but that right now feels incidental.

So is the return a good idea? Absolutely. But not because the central premise had been unfulfilled. Chris Chibnall is much better than to extend the story beyond its shelf life. Rather, he has adjusted the central premise. This is not about a community torn apart by a terrible crime. It’s about a community that doesn’t know how to repair itself.

Finally, it happened. More than two years after it had been originally broadcast and the nation had been whipped up into an excitable frenzy, I have finally got round to watching the TV phenomenon that is Broadchurch. Well, the first episode anyway. I know I am late to the party to sing its praises. I have essentially committed the equivalent of attending a New Years Eve at 1.30am on January 1st demanding the host to open another bottle of champagne and rouse the quite tired guests into another round of Auld Lang Syne, when quite frankly they just want to go to bed and ponder how long they will stick to their resolution of not eating carbs after 3pm.

But still, I am here to join the feast at last. The first episode was beautifully done. The pacing was perfect, the story slowly unfurling itself as incendiaries went off at opportune moments. The wealth of stories still to be told excites me, and the list of questions the viewer is left asking is long and growing, which is the way it should be so early into the series. Some notable characters haven’t even spoken yet,and yet the whisps of smoke surround them still.

I adore the gothic edge to it. The idyllic setting being disrupted by a heinous crime. The sense that DI Alec Hardie (David Tennant throwing off his past as the Doctor better than ever) is being haunted by past failures. The fact that even young children are capable of hiding dark secrets. Wilkie Collins couldn’t have written something more sensational and uncanny.

Also, I know this has been said before, but my God it Olivia Colman good. When police get personally drawn into a case through connections we normally get some over-testosterone fuelled acting, all menace and overt threats to the suspect. This is different; DS Ellie Miller is instead faced with the unenviable task of having to distance herself from a grief she is feeling all to strongly. She knows the community too well, Hardie not enough.

I am so glad to have had the change to catch this. Normally I find the channels that are just repeats pointless, but this time they have come good. And who knows, at this rate I may have got round to Breaking Bad by 2020.