The engaging ITV crime drama Broadchurch (trailer) (available on Netflix) has run for two eight-episode seasons, released in 2013 and 2015, with a third season filming this summer for release in 2017. It follows the investigation of the mysterious death of an 11-year-old boy in his small seaside town. Soon all the residents are looking differently at people they’ve known for decades. Secrets emerge; journalists are sleazy; people want revenge; and the coppers make mistakes.
The action in Broadchurch takes place in Dorset, in Southwest England, and the investigation is led by police detectives Alec Hardy (played by David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman). Colman is all over screens big and small this year (The Night Manager, The Lobster). A prize to you if you can catch everything Tennant says, between his character’s thick accent and habit of swallowing his words.
A Cast That Really Supports
All the acting is first-rate, especially that of the detectives and the dead boy’s parents, played by Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan. The story keeps you guessing as to the culprit, revealed at the end of season one. Season two is the trial and introduces some additional fine acting, notably Marianne Jean-Baptiste as the defense attorney. You may remember her as Viv in the U.S. tv series, Without a Trace. She has a severe new hairstyle that gives her a different look, but the voice is unmistakable. Also in season two is Charlotte Rampling as the prosecuting attorney and James D’Arcy as a possible badguy in a previous case that haunts DI Hardy. I remember him fondly as 1st Lt. Tom Pullings in Master and Commander, way back in 2003.
Special mention should be made of the haunting Broadchurch music from Ólafur Arnalds (soundclip), an Icelandic composer and musician, which adds immeasurably to the atmosphere.
U.S. Version Fails
Fox TV created a U.S. version of the series, set in the Pacific Northwest, in a similar seaside town. Called Gracepoint, the series’s most interesting aspect is that David Tennant crossed the Atlantic and the North American continent to reprise his role as the lead detective. In this version he is called Det. Emmett Carver. I wasted no time finding a clip from the show to hear him speak American. He inhabits the other role so completely, the effect was startling! Nick Nolte also appears, as does Michael Peña (The Martian). Alas, the Fox version didn’t measure up and was cancelled after one season of low ratings.
Broadchurch won many accolades from critics as well as a number of awards. In series one, Olivia Colman won a Best Actress award from the British Academy of Film & Television Arts (BAFTA) and the program received seven BAFTA nominations altogether, including one for Best Original Television Music.
Broadchurch enjoyed a huge audience in the U.K., but not in the United States when it played on BBC America or via streaming. Chances are then that you haven’t seen it, and if you like a compelling crime drama (minus Hollywood’s excessive gore), you might enjoy it!
Awaiting series 3.