Sunday, August 4, 2013

Broadchurch: British TV At Its Best

After watching the first two hours of the latest British mystery drama Broadchurch I must confess it : I'm hooked.
This stylish and completely compelling new miniseries stars TV's Dr. Who David Tennant in his return to television --not counting an NBC pilot which he filmed in Chicago but which was rejected as being too good for American TV viewers.
And watching Broadchurch and Tennant in such fine form got me to thinking about why British TV can polish off these murder mysteries with such aplomb.
First of all this one is delightfully slow and deliberately measured.
On CSI or Criminal Minds a grisly murder gets solved in 42 minutes flat complete with pulsating rock music.
Here it will take Tennant a very deliberative eight hours to come up with something.
And during those hours we get to understand and analyze the actions of the main suspects as we'd never get in an American show or on one of those Canadian efforts tailored to be as non specific as possible about location.
In one interview Tennant says the actors involved worked away without knowing the identity of the suspect until they were filming the last hour.
In this story every lead character has an arc of some sort where we really get to know them and what makes them tick.
In Britain a huge audience of nine million viewers became compulsive watchers for the eight week run which is considered highly unusual in this era of channel fragmentation.
I found the acting superb particularly that of Olivia Colman as the policewoman Ellie Miller, a Broadchurch native, who has been passed over in the search for a new Detective Inspector played by Tennant.
He is perfectly cast as the brash but insecure DI Alec Hardy, a character with a string of past failures who does not treat his team as equals.
When Miller brings in a supper of fish and chips he begs off causing Miller to erupt "You don't eat fish and chips? What kind of Scot are you?"
Best scene in the series might just be the opening tracking shot as a family man leaves his picture perfect family to go to work and we follow him along the village's high street as he meets and greets with neighbors.
In that single shot the idlylic community's group personality is established.
I'm not giving away much by stating that the body of an 11-year-old boy is quickly discovered on the beach --the tension revs up thanks to the skill of director James Strong.
Chris Chibnall (Dr. Who) wrote it and it kept my attention --I'm wondering how North American audiences used to quick resolves will take to it.
One problem: Episode One premieres Sunday night at 10 on Showcase smack dab against Mystery Masterpiece's quality British series Endeavour.
The second hour is on Showcase Monday night at 10.
MY RATING: ****.

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