This new British mystery drama strikes me as an attempt to bring The Killing (hugely popular in the UK) to a British setting, in this case the Southwest coast of England. David Tennant (a popular Dr. Who) plays Detective Inspector Alec Hardy, a city cop with a mysterious past who thinks he can hide in the quiet village of Broadchurch. He is mistaken, as he is immediately put in charge of the investigation of a young boy and his health (physical and emotional) soon starts to deteriorate.
Working with Hardy (and resenting his presence) is Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller, played by Olivia Colman. Broadchurch is very much a continuing story (non-episodic), like The Killing, and devotes serious time to character development, both of which I appreciate, especially when combined with the excellent performances by Tennant and Colman.
Aside from the occasional cliche, Broadchurch is well-written, with a clever plot and engaging characters as well as the Scandinavian Noir emphasis on justice issues (especially in its depiction of the media and the mob mistreatment of an old man). The location is used to good effect and both the music and cinematography are outstanding. Broadchurch is not as dark or noir-like as The Killing, but it has its dark moments and will appeal to those who like Scandinavian Noir. Great TV entertainment.
On the lighter side of village life on the Southwest coast of England, we have the wonderful comedy drama Doc Martin. Martin Clunes is perfectly cast as Dr. Martin Ellingham, a city surgeon who moves to the small village of Portwenn because of his mysterious past (hmmm, sounds familiar), which includes a fear of blood. Doc Martin also probably suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, which would help to explain the fact that he has the worst bedside manner in the history of GP’s (and my GP is pretty bad!).
Doc Martin is brilliantly-written. It’s funny but thoughtful, has great characters (well-acted), great stories, great cinematography and features one of the most awkward romances (Doc Martin with the teacher Louisa, played by Caroline Catz) you will ever see. A beautiful TV show I recommend to everyone.
For pure old-fashioned soap opera period drama of the highest calibre (and the highest production values), look no further than Downton Abbey, set in a Yorkshire country house beginning in 1912 and continuing into the 1920’s. Featuring a marvellous ensemble cast, depicting abbey life upstairs and downstairs with strong character development, Downton Abbey is remarkably compelling viewing. It is no surprise that it may be the most popular TV show in the world today. Again, I recommend it to everyone.
Parade’s End is a British miniseries written by Tom Stoppard and starring Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) and Rebecca Hall as Christopher and Sylvia Tietjens, a young eccentric couple caught up in the trials of life during WWI. Adding spice to the proceedings is the strained relationship between them and the arrival on the scene of a beautiful young suffragette named Valentine (Adelaide Clemens) who immediately falls in love with Christopher (the feeling is mutual).
So yes, this is an old-fashioned period romance, but written with exquisite skill and featuring perfect performances. It is a gorgeous film to watch (worth getting on blu-ray). Some viewers will be off by the very deliberate (i.e. slow) pacing of the show, but for me the pacing was exactly right.
My mug is up for these four **** British TV dramas.