TV Review: Broadchurch

Broadchurch may not be genre in our usual sense, but the eight-episode series, which wowed the UK in the spring and just completed its NA run, features suspense, mystery, a psychic with more than human knowledge, and David Tennant.

Like a good deal of contemporary television, this should be viewed as an extended movie.

As for the proposed American adaptation—I’m usually open-minded about such things but, in this case, please just leave well enough alone.

Title: Broadchurch

Cast and Crew

Directors: James Strong (5 episodes) and Euros Lyn (3 episodes)
Writer: Chris Chibnail

David Tennant as Alec Hardy
Olivia Colman as Ellie Miller
Jodie Whittaker as Beth Latimer
Andrew Buchan as Mark Latimer
Charlotte Beaumont as Choloe Latimer
Adam Wilson as Tom Miller
Arthur Darvill as Rev. Paul Coates
Matthew Gravelle as Joe Miller
Jonathan Bailey as Olly Stevens
Pauline Quirke as Susan Wright
Carolyn Pickles as Maggie Radcliffe
Joe Sims as Nigel Carter
Susan Brown as Liz Roper
Will Emllor as Steve Connelly
Vicky McClure as Karen White
Simone McAullay as Becca Fisher
Benji Yapp as Fred Miller
Peter De Jersey as Brian Young
David Bradley as Jack Marshall
Oskar McNamara as Danny Latimer
Steve Bennett as Bob Daniels

Full cast and crew information may be found here.


The murder of an eleven-year-old boy brings grief, suspicions, and fear to a small seaside community.

High Point

This show runs heavy towards the tropes, to be certain: detectives (one with heavy personal demons) who don’t get along must solve a murder in a small town inhabited by people who either (a) carry a dark secret or (b) happened to be engaging in suspicious behavior the night of the crime. And many people will guess the solution, or at least, the motive.

That’s only a part of Broadchurch. The characters drive the story as much as the killing. Broadchurch deals with the consequences of the crime, and takes us into territory often left unexplored by mysteries and police procedurals. The solution to the crime doesn’t bring about a happy ending, just more questions and grief and fear.

Low Point

Murder mysteries require red herrings. I get that. And life is messy, so I’ll accept, for example, the unexplained conflict between Danny and the postal worker and the presence of three characters connected with two unrelated criminal cases. I’ll even handwave the psychic with eerily accurate information, even though we’re in a realistic show, and such creatures largely exist in the PR of professional hucksters and the uncritical reporters of suburban lore. I think that particular character could have been cut from the show and it would have improved matters, but he didn’t present a huge problem. Life contains mysteries.

No, my Clupean objection concerns the brilliantly-acted but inexplicably-motivated Susan Wright, whose actions, taken across the whole of the story, occur only to mislead.  We understand why she might have stood staring at the dead body and then said nothing, but why take the skateboard? Having taken it, why then return it in such a suspicious manner? Why did she lie, clumsily, about Mark’s presence in the house on the cliff? If this was to protect Nigel, why does she then turn him in so readily a short time later? I know people cannot always explain their own actions, but this seems like cheating on the audience.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6

Effects: 4/6 How about four for some stunning visuals?

Story: 5/6 The show features strong writing, cluttered by events that happen for no reason other than to obscure the solution. Characters vary from very strongly-written originals to passable small town types.

Acting: 6/6 Dear NA Television: don’t remake this show; copy what made it good. The cast consists of actors, not underwear models. Fans of Tennant’s Doctor may be surprised by his excellent but very different performance.

Emotional Response: 5/6

Production: 6/6.

Overall: 5/6 People will slug out the meaning of the final episode, but Broadchurch remains a show worth watching.

In total, Broadchurch receives 35/42

5 replies on “TV Review: Broadchurch”

  1. The way you explain it, Broadchurch seems very much like a British version of Twin Peaks. Is it?

    • Similar initial premise– though that premise is hardly original– but a very different execution and a solution that makes sense. So, that is one way to look at it.

    • It does have a feel of Twin Peaks, but leaves out the supernatural David Lynch element. It’s a small town, and the townspeople have secrets. Or small town, big time murder. It focuses a lot more on police procedure than Dale Cooper, SuperSpecialAgent.

      Regarding an American adaptation, I would hope they take the spirit, and a couple ideas, but completely rename it. Trying the same recipe but just placing it in an American oven won’t work. You’ve got to give the show it’s own little slice of awkward Americana, like Twin Peaks had. Just leave out all the supernatural elements, and it can be done right. (I don’t trust our entertainment industry enough to do it right however.)

  2. Yeah, still watching on BBC America (yes, I’ve also already downloaded the series, but being patient), so no, we haven’t completed the NA run. So STFU.
    Great show, though!

    • Perhaps I should have said, it has completed its first NA run. Canadians saw the final ep on television last night.

      Boy, will you ever be surprised when you find out that the butler did it.

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