UPDATE : we’re on episode 4 and it’s still managing to get absolutely every detail of human and professional behaviour wrong – which is kind of magnificent… Plus – I suspect if it was American I wouldn’t question its veracity – I’d simply suspend disbelief and go with the emotional torture of it all… This is our new world… Alan Plater* isn’t coming back… British Social Realism is dead. We may as well get used to it**. ***
I love it – but it’s dreadful – or at least it’s dreadful if you expect it to conform to some kind of shared reality – if we accept it’s set in a Wessex Twilight Zone – then it’s a work of genius.
The Stuff I Love
1. Olivia Colman – how can you not? She’s so real, and she cries!
2. David Tennant – he can overact and kill a scene but even then he’s still compelling.
3. The West Country Accents – the regions were wiped off the drama map sometime in the 1990s – it’s nice to see somewhere that isn’t London or ‘the North’ get a bit of local colour.
4. All the legal and professional stuff is wrong – witnesses hang out with lawyers, the police conduct interviews in fields… occasionally the wrongness will become part of the plot, or someone will mention it in a line of dialogue – but that’s a mistake – the show works best when it skips over the inaccuracies like they don’t exist.
5. Everything is wrong – grown men have secret meetings with adolescent boys to be ‘friends’, new mothers are out and about on the same day they give birth, police-officers unofficially conceal witnesses in cottages in order to unofficially investigate crimes they officially failed to solve, suspects lurk menacingly on hills, in fields, outside doors, all the main characters will turn up to the opening of a grave…
6. 3 Act Structure – this isn’t noticeable unless you’ve read one of the many, many books about the ‘Hollywood way of writing a script’. It’s got a stranglehold on the British drama market because without it they’d have to do ‘thinking’… and they would have to develop ‘taste’ – and ain’t nobody got time for that… The 3 Act Structure is a Hero’s Journey from his ordinary world through a huge conflict to the final resolution and along the way are standard scenes like ‘refusing the call to adventure’ or ‘a moment of defeat’ and Broadchurch has them all in exactly the right places. Which is hilarious.
7. MELODRAMA! – crying, screaming, shouting, waters breaking… it has the lot.
What I Don’t Like
1. Some of the acting isn’t up to the lousy dialogue (it’s not their fault – but it does take some of the fun out of it).
2. The Theme – series 1 laid on the ‘not all paedophiles are paedophiles’ preaching a bit thick – esp. as I wasn’t convinced the writer understood the issues properly… and I’ve no idea what series 2 is trying to say yet except ‘Maxine Carr was innocent… or wasn’t… or something…’
3. Series 1 had a who-dun-it aspect that made tiny encounters significant… Series 2 has no definite direction except there’s a trial and another murder mystery that may or may not turn into a conventional who-dun-it… with incident piling on emotional agony to no known avail – the show risks becoming boring and too ludicrous to stick with.
* Alan Plater : http://www.screenonline.org.uk/people/id/473028/
** yes – I know it died sometime in the mid-1990s – but it’s taken me a while to notice. I was too busy watching Big Brother on channel 4.
*** British Social Realism will now have an instant revival and I won’t notice until 2035.