Broadchurch and Mayday: Pilot Reviews

The BBC and ITV both launched major new dramas that no one can argue are both heavily influenced by various European dramas. There’s just less Danish knitwear and more morris dancing and 99p flakes. Something is topsy-turvy in TV land though, because ITV’s offering of Broadchurch stars BBC stalwarts David Tennant and Olivia Colman and is a great piece of television while the Mayday stars… well not much of anyone really and is utterly rubbish.

Mayday started on Sunday night and playing out over the next four evenings, which means that by the time I get this review up the series is actually almost over. I probably wouldn’t have bothered reviewing it at all if not for the fact that it contrasts so nicely with Broadchurch, which I really wanted to draw peoples’ attention to.

Both series are about a crime against a child, Broadchurch starts immediately with the body of a ten year old boy, while Mayday has a missing 14 year old girl. Both are set in small towns where everyone knows each other, Mayday in an idyllic village (complete with Mayday celebrations and Morris Dancers), Broadchurch a Dorset seaside town (with ice creams and seasonal traffic jams). The biggest point of contrast is that while both series suggest that not everyone is what they seem, Broadchurch gradually works up to that with subtlety, while Mayday practically screams “this person has a secret” with every line of dialogue, close up moody look and musical cue.

That is the very reason why I loved Broadchurch and loathed Mayday, and is also the reason that I wondered if the two had somehow got channel swapped by accident. Mayday is a pantomime that sits more naturally alongside ITV’s Downton Abbey and Mr Selfridge. Characters are one sentence parodies with hammy actors combining with cheesy direction to make a horrific ploughman’s of a show. My response to it all was eye rolling and laughter at the obviousness of it all, hardly edge of the seat stuff.

Broadchurch however induced not only curiosity and genuine tension, but also full on tearing up and heart in mouth moments. The focus on the family as they went through the worst day of their lives was just devastating, and the view of the emotional impact on the team investigating the crime was equally heartbreaking. The director and writers have enough faith in their actors and audience to leave much unsaid, the subtext is clear for everyone to read and doesn’t need to be bludgeoned home.

I guess there’s a chance that Mayday settled down, and that some of you stuck with it while I deleted the series link as soon as I’d finished the first episode. It’s strange that the BBC chose to run it Sunday to Thursday evenings, it really didn’t seem anywhere near the type of event television that would make that work. The ratings don’t look to be its favour, it dropped nearly 2 million viewers (6.2 to 4.3) for its Monday showing, which went up directly against Broadchurch which mustered 6.8million. I guess the real test for Broadchurch is how many tune in next week, but I for one can’t recommend it highly enough.

Mayday finishes tonight and is available on iPlayer until and Broadchurch airs on Monday nights and is available on itvplayer.

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