All over the place people have jumped upon the fact that Broadchuch owes a debt to Scandinavian dramas like The Killing and The Bridge because it comprises just one case which is gradually developed over the space of several hours. But the similarity which really jumped out to me was not the structure, but the fact that like those shows it relied very heavily on red herrings, stupid characters, sudden turnarounds and unlikely coincidences.
I don’t know what a real police investigation would be like, but in order to control the pace of the show this one clearly relied on police asking not quite the right questions and witnesses/suspects wanting to keep secrets rather than truly help with the investigation. For the most part it comes across as characters being dim, rather than writers being stuck for ideas, but it is a very fine line sometimes. As it turned out the journey was also far better than the destination, while I guessed the who (partially), the motive came out of absolute nowhere and felt very weakly explained.
But for all my that, I thoroughly enjoyed Broadchurch, and that’s down to three factors. The first is that it was proper ‘water cooler television’. I could sit and chat about the show with friends over a cup of tea, not just to chuckle over the dialogue or tut over the problems, but to discuss the plot twists and turns and make predictions. The frustration that many of the answers were completely unguessable never overwhelmed the shared experience of making them.
The other two elements that made the show a joy were David Tennant and Olivia Colman who lit up the screen and brought spark to even the flattest of dialogue. Their relationship didn’t fall into any of the usual clichés and they genuinely just felt like a normal couple of people thrown together. The acting through the rest of the cast was a bit more hit and miss, the lovely Arthur Darvill can do no wrong in my book, but Pauline Quirk was laying it on with a shovel.
I’m a bit uncertain as to whether I’d describe Broadchurch as ‘good’, but I have no hesitation in recommending it as enjoyable. There are lines of dialogue that absolutely cracked me up, and moments of silence that had me welling up. But alongside those were moments that had me cringing and an eventual reveal that just left me flat. I’m not sure how a second season will work, but if it allows me to spend more time with Olivia Coleman and David Tennant, than I’ll be there.