Monday 4 March at 9pm on ITV
ITV’s push to become the home of UK drama continues apace with Broadchurch, a worthy, if slightly flawed, police procedural from the tapping fingers of Doctor Who scribe Chris Chibnall.
Olivia Colman is DS Ellie Miller, top plod of the eponymous cheery seaside town, who returns from a sabbatical to discover the promotion she was all but assured has been passed to outsider Alec Hardy (a hangdog, unshaven David Tennant). To make matters worse, the body of an 11-year old boy – the child of a close friend of hers – has been discovered on a nearby beach.
Tennant’s Hardy is a cop with a troubled past. But then, he’s a tired-looking Scottish detective with a beard, so ofcourse he is. There’s the shadow of a former case hanging over him, and Tennant is, predictably, more than decent in the role, free of any Doctor Who or RSC histrionics than can seep into his performances from time to time.
Able support comes from the rest of the cast too, a veritable ‘ooh, it’s dem, wossname’ of British drama over the past five years. Yet it’s Colman who, once again, proves she is an actor to be reckoned with; not in full-tilt Tyrannosaur mode (but there are many episodes to come, so give it time) but emitting so much gravitas she might very well have her own moon.
Jodie Whitaker and Andrew Buchan are also excellent as the bereaved parents, the former in denial until unable to deny any longer, and the latter conspicuously controlled. Sure, grief always subsides a little too quickly to ring entirely true in crime dramas such as these – if it didn’t, entire episodes would crawl by comprising nought but people prostrate and howling on their terrible carpets – but the two here do enough to convince while not ruling them out as potential suspects. But then, everyone’s a suspect in Broadchurch, as a daft and oddly obtuse montage of shifty-looking local faces at the end of the episode reiterates.
The show goes to great pains to emphasise, in elliptical Devonshire tones, the extent to which “things loik this don’ ‘app’n round ‘ere”; so much so that you half expect Nick Frost to hurtle tit-first through a wooden fence, before saying something, fatly, about ice cream. It also seems a little too fond of slow motion as a tool to convey emotional impact – a device that gets old way before the director gets tired of using it.
Do no mistakin’: this is an unrelentingly grim tale – not in an innards-all-about-the-place-I’ll-wear-your-foreskin-like-a-thermal-sock sort of way, but in its stately appreciation of the grave nature of its subject matter. You won’t laugh once, of this be sure, and there isn’t the quickfire excitement of an hour-long mystery being solved. There is a decent whodunit in here, but you’ll have to become invested in Broadchurch to get the most out of it. Just be warned: it’s very good, but cor blimey is it bleak.