Friday, September 27, 2013

Tube Steak: Broadchurch Series One

Wednesday night saw BBC America's turn at airing the much-heralded Broadchurch--a show that is as much a small town drama as it is a murder mystery--come to an end. For those who did not watch or don't even know what Broadchurch is because it's on BBC America, its initial run was fucking spectacular.

Written almost entirely by creator Chris Chibnall--the only other writer with an "Written by" credit was Louise Fox, who co-wrote the sixth installment--Broadchurch is expertly plotted out, magnificently shot, and superbly acted. Chibnall, who has worked on Doctor Who, Torchwood, Law & Order: UK, and Life on Mars, crafted a tightly-woven whodunit set against the backdrop of the titular small seaside community on the south coast of England. Centered around the murder of an eleven-year-old boy, Danny Latimer, the murder shakes the quiet town to its core, as Broadchurch had been untouched by violent crime up to then. What unfurls as the Latimer family tries to come to grips with the murder that has befallen them, as the police try sift through the details to find the killer, as the town begins to turn on itself, is a fantastically compelling eight episodes of television.

The acting, particularly the two detectives on the case, played by Olivia Colman and former Doctor Who David Tennant, and Danny's parents, Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan, is top-notch. As Danny's murder starts to tear at the fabric of their marriage, Whittaker and Buchan shine. They imbue their characters with such an innate humanity that putting yourself in their shoes is effortless. As DS Ellie Miller (Colman) and DI Alec Hardy get deeper and deeper into the case, the initial conflict between the two resulting from their starkly different points-of-view begins to dissipate as his distinctly more pessimistic and world-weary philosophy begins to inevitably permeate her viewpoint, not by his influence but by the toxic nature of the crime that they are investigating. To delve too much deeper into the superb acting would be to give away far too much, but as anyone who has seen the series can attest, they all have their moments to shine, and shine they do.

And with seasons British television directors James Strong (Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Hustle) and Euros Lyn (Doctor Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Upstairs Downstairs) as the steadying hand at the helm of each episode, the episodes are filmed in such a way as to bring you into the headspace of these characters and into the world of Broadchurch. The camera direction deftly conforms to the larger psychological undertones of the scene, with no shot standing out more magnificently than the fateful scene where the murderer is finally revealed. Chibnall and Company clearly had a very specific story they were going to tell, and the machine had to click on all cylinders for it to all come together.

Holy shit, did they ever succeed.

Broadchurch can currently be streamed legally, but for pay--$2.99 per episode in HD ($1.99 for standard definition), $22.72 for the season ($15.12 SD)--here. It's also on YouTube for $1.99 per episode, but it appears as though there is not an HD viewing option. As it was broadcast in the UK by ITV and not the BBC, I have no idea if and when it will be available for purchase or streaming by subscription service in the US.

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