The British TV series Broadchurch has not had an easy time breaking into American culture. The US has enjoyed its fair share of British imports — like Doctor Who and Downton Abbey — that have gone on to rampant success in the states, yet Broadchurch has always been on the smaller end of the scale ratings-wise. Which is a shame, because it's one of the most exceptional and well-made TV series around.
From the get-go, Broadchurch has always boasted a stellar cast — an embarrassment of riches in its talent, anchored by the likes of David Tennant and Olivia Colman. Every cast member, without exception, has been up to the challenge of such an emotional drama — from the grieving parents, Beth and Mark Latimer (Jodie Whittaker – soon to be the next Doctor – and Andrew Buchan, both stand-outs in the cast), to the reporters, lawyers, family, friends, and the community that surrounds them.
And this quality is reflective of the material at hand, as well as the level of care put into the production as a whole. The series exudes a meticulous aesthetic — from the moody soundtrack, to the stunning cinematography, and the fantastic direction and writing.
It's Not Like Other Crime Dramas
There are a lot of shows that look somewhat similar on the market, and Broadchurch is certainly not without its own inspirations (and imitators). A seemingly straight-forward crime drama focused on a season-long mystery regarding a murder; the police are helpless, the family is devastated, a myriad of suspects are considered and it all comes together at the finale.
Yet in spite of commonalities, Broadchurch is very much a series that stands all on its own. It takes an approach far more intimately character-based than almost any that's come before. It's brutality honest about the challenges of life and the people around us, with stupendous emotional complexity and oft-times devastating rawness in its reality. Where so many others are wont to fall back on treacly platitudes, this show cuts them through with ease, and conveys in very stark terms the vulnerabilities of its very human characters.
The American TV network Fox tried to duplicate the show's success (after it was a massive hit in the UK) in the form of Gracepoint — an adaptation that even recruited David Tennant and series creator Chris Chibnall for the task. But it ended after a disappointing first season, which just goes to show how hard it is to replicate the original. And for all the noble goals surrounding Gracepoint, one really should engage with Broadchurch itself just to see what others are talking about.
It's Worth Watching The Original
The show's airing is nearing its end in the US — as the third season finale (and series finale) aired Wednesday on BBC America. In spite of its other achievements, it's struggled to find an audience or catch on across the pond. And while the Doctor Whos and the Downtown Abbeys enjoy much-deserved success in America, Broadchurch also goes to show how easily we sometimes overlook other great British-made television.
If you want to see what kind of writer is before Chris Chibnall is before he takes on Doctor Who as its new showrunner, this is a great place to start. If you want to see some Jodie Whittaker as she becomes the next Doctor, her talent is on full display here. If you’re a fan of Olivia Colman, or if you want to see the range of David Tennant’s talent beyond his work on Doctor Who and Jessica Jones, this is a must-watch.
The show is coming to a much-deserved end with the third season finale, and it's a bittersweet farewell. It has a dark, electric atmosphere, exceptional character drama, and in-depth exploration of trauma, grief, and loss unlike almost no other. Even if it does inspire more imitators, there will likely never be another show like Broadchurch.
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