Television: Broadchurch, Episode 1.1

I have been hearing about this show—whispers in passing—since before it aired on ITV and have been champing at the bit to get a look. Alas, I wasn't over at the time ITV was showing it, and I was then determined not to have it spoiled for me, so I've stayed away. Until now.

Broadchurch will begin airing on BBC America starting the evening of Wednesday, August 7, but the first episode is available On Demand as a sneak. I finally decided I couldn't wait any longer. And now I'm just sorry I'll have to wait another week to ten days to watch the next episode.

It's a fantastic show. Just in the first episode, so much is done with the cinematography and minimal dialogue, very realistic. Here, actions and reactions speak louder than words.

David Tennant (I'll admit, the big draw here for me) does his best David Duchovny slouch as he plays DI Alec Hardy, latest installment in the Broadchurch police force, attempting to put nasty accusations (of which he was acquitted) behind him. Alas, his first day on the job he is greeted with the murder of an 11-year-old boy. Back in the saddle he goes.

Riding beside him, the somewhat bitter DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) who had anticipated getting the DI position. Ellie knows everyone in town—the local newshound is her nephew—and plays the heart to Alec's head. Her own son Tom was the murder victim's best friend and clearly knows more than he's said.

The first episode does a nice job of introducing the town and its people without being too heavy handed with the exposition. Viewers get a good sense of what's going on and who is who, and it pleases me to see a show written and produced in a way that doesn't treat the audience like imbeciles. At the same time, Broadchurch also avoids coming across as smug or self-satisfied with its own cleverness, which is a problem I've sometimes found in even well-constructed programs.

Some have likened Broadchurch to Twin Peaks, and I'm guessing that's mainly because (a) the victim is found on the beach (though not wrapped in plastic), and (b) the story centers on an insular town wherein anyone might be the culprit while (c) the chief investigator is an outsider. I do wonder what it says about the differences in American versus British culture when Americans kill off a beautiful young female teenager and the British choose a pre-adolescent boy. But maybe that's more a sign of the times, what with Twin Peaks being so much older . . . Or even more likely, it's just that Twin Peaks was created by David Lynch. So far, I don't see quite that level of strange in Broadchurch, which in the first episode at least remains quite grounded in reality. I think I would be disappointed were it to go off the rails in Lynchian fashion.

Really, Broadchurch is the best show I've watched in a while. Smart of BBC America to put it on in advance of the fall premieres, thus filling that late summer gap. Broadchurch might have suffered, too, if it had gone up against Game of Thrones and/or American Horror Story in early winter, but at this time of year the ground is fertile for a Broadchurch-style drama. At only eight episodes, the show squeezes in before most networks begin rolling out their latest wares. I hope people will give it a try. It's tightly written, nicely filmed, and well acted. A real treat.

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