J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Broadchurch: David Tennant Investigates

It is the drama that made Twitter explode in the UK.  Fox has plans for an Americanized version for the 2014-15 season, but intrigued viewers only have to wait eight weeks to find out who did it.  The ensuing investigation might just cost the investigating detective a sizable chunk of his soul.  Nevertheless, all will eventually be revealed when the eight week Broadchurch (promo here) airs on BBC America, beginning this Wednesday.

Young Danny Latimer has been murdered. His body was found dumped at the beach, but the Socos (CSI) quickly determine this is not the original crime scene.  Beth and Mark Latimer did not realize their son is missing until it was too late, merely assuming he was off on his morning paper route.  Dogged Detective Inspector Alec Hardy soon discovers other family secrets that kept certain Latimers preoccupied.

Hardy is either the best or the worst DI for this investigation.  In his last posting, the detective worked an eerily similar case.  Precise details will emerge over time, but it clearly ended badly.  Hardy had come to the small Jurassic Coastal town of Broadchurch to escape the media spotlight and recuperate his ailing body and psyche.  While fraught with career perils, the Latimer case represents possible redemption for the controversial copper.  However, he will have to work it with the distinctly resentful Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller, who came back from her vacation to find Hardy in place of her anticipated promotion.

There will be no shortage of suspects in Broadchurch, including Danny’s father; his friend and colleague Nigel Carter; Jack Marshall, the local newsagent; the insomniac vicar Rev. Paul Coates, and a nasty late middle-aged woman living in mobile home not far from the crime scene.  DS Miller’s own son Tom also acts rather oddly upon learning of his friend’s murder.  Series creator Chris Chibnall will focus suspicion on just about everyone before the big finale, but Broadchurch is just as much about the grief and guilt resulting from the Latimer murder as it is a mystery procedural.

Broadchurch will be of particular interest to Doctor Who fans, starring former Doctor David Tennant as DI Hardy, former companion Arthur Darville as Rev. Coates, and guest star Olivia Colman as DS Miller.  Frankly, Broadchurch might just eclipse the Doctor as Tennant’s career defining role.  Again, he makes a convincingly intelligence screen presence, but where the dashing figure he supposedly cut in Spies of Warsaw was a bit of a stretch, he is darkly compelling as the haggard, sullen, world-weary, angst-ridden Hardy.  Yet, Colman also holds her own in their scenes together quite well as the increasingly disillusioned DS Miller.

To their credit, both Darville the actor and Chibnall the writer make Rev. Coates a legitimate suspect, while still avoiding all the easy clergy clichés.  They even allow him some surprisingly powerful sermons that essentially function as the conscience of the series.  Yet, it is Jodie Whittaker who really personifies Broadchurch’s emotional devastation as the distraught Beth Latimer.

Broadchurch is grabby right from the start, but it is written with greater depth and psychological insight than conventional mystery series.  Doctor Who alumni James Strong and Euros Lyn helm their installments with admirable sensitivity and the music of hardcore drummer-turned contemporary classical composer Ólafur Arnalds sets an unusually elegiac tone.  Quality television in every way, Broadchurch is highly recommended for fans of ambitious mystery series, like The Killing, Twin Peaks, and Top of the Lake.  It commences its American premiere this Wednesday (8/7) on BBC America.

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