Broadchurch (series 1) — Killer TV No21

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Cliffhanger: Broadchurch 1

2013-2014, ITV

‘You’re going to stop asking questions about me.’ Susan Wright

‘Why would I do that?’ Maggie Radcliffe

‘I know men who would rape you…’ – Susan Wright

David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Andrew Buchan, Jodie Whittaker, Pauline Quirke, Arthur Darvill, Vicky McClure, David Bradley, Will Mellor, Carolyn Pickles, Matthew Gravelle

Identikit: The investigation of the murder of a boy in a small seaside town in Dorset and the effect it has throughout the community.


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Olivia Colman and David Tennant

logosLet’s be clear: series 1 was terrific, while series 2 completely lost the plot. So Broadchurch gets in the Killer 50 on the strength of series 1, and the second outing will be discreetly ignored here (though this was CrimeTimePreview’s verdict at the time). Perhaps the key to Broadchurch 1’s huge success was that it was a project writer Chris Chibnall believed in so much that he wrote it for his own satisfaction, a labour of love, without being commissioned, without executive tinkering, before taking it to ITV. He was inspired by living near Dorset’s Jurassic Coast (it was filmed mainly at West Bay), and wanted to explore the impact of a boy’s murder on a seaside community. The body of Danny Latimer is found on the beach and during the next eight episodes we witness the crime’s emotional reverberations on the family, police, press, businesses and the local church. Where the victim’s place in the world is barely touched on in many cop shows, here Broadchurch perhaps picks up on the huge success of the first series of The Killing (Forbrydelsen) and became a drama with greater depth and characterisation than most series have. It is also, of course, a whodunit that got everyone talking (even journalists were self-righteously outraged when previews of the final episode were not made available to them), so it has the usual red-herrings and coincidences to knock down before the end. But Broadchurch had far more going for it than a mechanical Agatha Christie plot. The family’s agony was portrayed seriously through affecting performances, particularly from Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan as Danny’s parents – an early scene in which Mark identifies his son’s body is heartrending. And what a terrific ensemble cast, with Vicky McClure, Pauline Quirke, Arthur Darvill and Will Mellor among those giving the story great depth and colour. Then there is the dream team of leads in David Tennant and Olivia Colman as the tormented senior detective and local officer who had been expecting to get his job. Broadchurch could be a bit of a game-changer for British crime shows, veering away from the high body counts, forensic fantasies and cardboard characters of Midsomer Murders, Lewis, Silent Witness and the like. A third series will start filming this summer. After the implausibilies of season 2, it will have its work cut to recapture the specialness of the original.

Classic episode: The final episode was full of drama. The murderer is revealed halfway through and writer Chris Chibnall then brilliantly takes time to show how devastating the revelation is for Ellie, the Latimers and Hardy.

Spin-off: The US version, made by Fox, is called Gracepoint and went into production quite soon after the ITV version proved so successful. David Tennant reprised his role – with a change of name from Alec Hardy to Emmett Carver and an American accent – while Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn took Olivia Colman’s part as his police colleague.

Watercooler fact: The cast were not told who the murderer was so that the performance of the actor playing him/her would not be swayed by the knowledge.

Comments

  1. Can’t wait to see what ranks higher than No21 now! Loved Broadchurch — the cast really clicked. . .watched it more than once. . .[American version not so much]

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