Hey TV.com, Should I Watch BBC America's David Tennant-starring Broadchurch?

By Cory Barker

Aug 06, 2013

You might currently be all up-in-arms over the announcement of the next Doctor, but there's a new show coming to BBC America that'll provide all kinds of Who-adjacent goodness. And if there's one thing that British TV does best, it's the long-form crime drama. From Prime Suspect to Luther, the Brits have done a much better job stepping outside the restrictions of the open-and-shut procedural case than anything created here in the States. Maybe you're burned out by the dreary nature of The Killing, or simply sad that the third season is over, but if that's the case, BBC America is ready to help you out with the debut of Broadchurch, an eight-hour series that aired earlier this year on ITV in the U.K. I've seen a big chunk of the season and I'm here to help you decide whether you should check it out in another edition of Help Me TV.com! What Should I Watch?

Broadchurch? Aren't those evengelical megachurch shows only on really late at night or really early in the morning?

Don't fret! While the show does feature a reverend (played by Doctor Who alum Arthur Darvill), religion isn't a big part of Broadchurch's story. Instead, this is a tale you're already familiar with: A young boy is murdered (and seemingly posed to to make his death look like a suicide), disrupting the pretty normal lives of a beach community. Of course, once new-to-town Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (your other Who alum, someone by the name of David Tennant) and local detective Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) start digging into both the case and the town, the words "pretty" and "normal" start to fly out the window.

Who created this show and who's in it? 

The creator and sole writer of Broadchurch is Chris Chibnall, a veteran scribe with some great credits on his resume—including Life on MarsTorchwoodLaw & Order: UK, and (here we are again) Doctor Who. For those of you familiar with Who, Chibnall-penned episodes include "42," "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship," and "The Power of Three." The cast is top-lined by the aforementioned Tennant and Colman; the latter is a veteran actress from other British projects like The Accused and Twenty Twelve. Jodie Whittaker (Attack the Block) and Andrew Buchan (The FixerGarrow's Law) play the grieving parents Beth and Mark Latimer, while Harry Potter's Mr. Filch and Game of Thrones' Walder Frey, David Bradley, plays another one of the sort of creepy and/or misunderstood old guys he's been playing for a while now. The supporting cast is big, and full of family members, townspeople, police officers, media members, and more. If you're familiar with British TV, chances are you'll recognize a good lot of them. 

When does the Broadchurch case begin?

The series makes its U.S. debut on BBC America on Wednesday, August 7 at 10pm, and its eight episodes will unspool once a week from there. Even though it was initially meant to be a one-off, ITV has already announced that there will be a second season. So even though this is a complete story, fear not—there will be more. 

Who will enjoy Broadchurch?

I know I've made a lot of references to Doctor Who, and it's hard not to, but if you're assuming this thing will be all timey-wimey, or that David Tennant is going to emotionally shout that he's not ready to go, Broadchurch is going to be a confusing experience for you. This is a pure murder mystery crime drama; it's all about the extended investigation into an 11-year-old boy's death and the aftershocks his murder has on the community. If you're the kind of person who tuned into The Killing to find out who offed Rosie Larsen, Broadchurch is definitely in your wheelhouse. And even if you're the kind of person who quit The Killing sometime during the first season, don't be afraid of Broadchurch; it's not as drab or as ponderous, and the case doesn't overwhelm the show with bad cliffhangers and pointless misdirects. 

What works about Broadchurch?

Quite a bit. That Killing comparison is easy, but instructive: Murder of a young person, guy/gal detective duo, grieving family, larger scope on other corners of the surrounding community, etc. There are big chunks of The Killing that I like, but after five episodes of Broadchurch (and by the way, I intended to watch one, maybe two before writing this preview—the show is that addictive), it works a bit better than The Killing. It does a wonderful job of exploring how young Danny Latimer's death impacts all kinds of people, and while the case brings to light all kinds of dirty laundry, the ensuing revelations never feel especially silly or exploitative. At times, the murder investigation easily falls to the background so the interpersonal dramas can step forward, and the show doesn't miss a beat. There are cliffhangers along the way, but they aren't the OH MY GOD THAT'S THE KILLER kind that often plague bad murder mysteries. 

Two other big pluses in Broadchurch's favor: The performances and the location. Everybody in the cast is on their game, starting with Tennant, who certainly shows a different side of himself here with Detective Inspector Hardy's jaded, burned-out persona. And Colman really drives the action as Miller tries to balance her professional instincts with her personal connections to possible suspects. Elsewhere, Whittaker and Buchan never make the Latimers' grief seem overheated, and the show's slew of supporting players are solid as well. 

And man, does this sucker look great. Whereas The Killing's Vancouver-for-Seattle setting makes for a truly depressing and sometimes suffocating viewing experience, Broadchurch's beautiful and often sunny beaches nicely contrast with the show's seedier undertones. Directors James Strong and Euros Lyn shoot the action in a way that emphasizes the lush locales, but there's no excess gloss or sheen. It looks awesome. 

And what doesn't work so well?

I have very few complaints. Broadchurch certainly isn't devoid of cliffhangers and misdirects, which can be frustrating in the early going when it's obvious that the show isn't going to reveal too much integral information. Similarly, there are characters the series constantly keys in on, as if to say HEY, THEY'RE SUSPICIOUS, and that can grow tiresome. In general, it doesn't offer anything particularly original; you've seen this before. 

Okay, so should I watch it?

Oh, most definitely. While it may not be the most original thing on TV, Broadchurch offers a really great execution of a story and characters you're very comfortable with. The cast is great, the episodes visit some really compelling places, and there are some gorgeous shots interspersed throughout. 

Can I get a preview?

A preview? How about a full first episode, available for free online RIGHT NOW (albeit not embeddable)? But if you just want a quick peek, here's a trailer, too:

What should I drink while I watch Broadchurch?

It's gotta be a pint of your favorite English stout. Maybe two pints.

Ed. note: If you've already seen Broadchurch, please avoid posting spoilers in the comments! We'll be back Wednesday night with a review of the first episode, though we likely we won't cover the show weekly unless clicks and comments demand it. So... speak up if you're interested in regular reviews!

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  • tamaracassill Sep 30, 2014

    I just finsihed it - such a good show!! i was addicted loved it

  • Inigo_Montoya Dec 30, 2013

    David Tennant! Arthur Darvill! David Bradley! Dinosaurs on a Spaceship-writing! (Seriously, 'How do you start a triceratops?!' is one of my all-time favorite Doctor lines, and there have been so many…)

  • triciaketting Aug 14, 2013

    In Australia we are more than half way through and I love it so far. Slow moving but this is real to life and its certainly gripping. Last week was a real 'oh so sad' moment at the end. Great to hear there will be a second series.

  • AndrsCappiell Aug 08, 2013

    Nice show if you watch it for the characters, extremely disappointing if you watch it for the who-did-it.

  • mysticmoggy Aug 08, 2013

    I liked Broadchurch and would definitely rewatch it. If you're on the fence about watching this, give it a go! It'll hook you in. :)

  • smithinjapan Aug 08, 2013

    I'm so happy to see Tennant in something else. Long overdue. The show sounds good.

  • 2muchbadTV Aug 07, 2013

    FWIW, Olivia Colman is also a Dr. Who alum....she was Prisoner Zero's psychic/physical-form-link thingy at the end of Smith's first episode, The Eleventh Hour. She was the mom in the mother/daughter link who first told the Doctor that silence would fall.

    Cory, lemme ask you this: I really liked the Brit (original version) mini-series "State of Play" (which later got made into a so-so movie with Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck). That was a murder mystery of sorts, with a lot of political overtones, but I'd call it largely a murder mystery. That was a 6-episode deal, I think. Wondering if you've seen it, and if you'd compare Broadchurch to that.

  • YeOldOne Aug 07, 2013

    Watched it in the UK. Some nice twists and a good basic plot however, it was about twice as long as it needed to be so I found it dragged a bit.

  • dh4645 Aug 07, 2013

    not sure if i'll watch it. more shows coming back on in the next 2 months

    really wish we had BBC America HD. BBCA just looks gross after watching mostly HD programming

  • dh4645 Aug 07, 2013

    maybe i'll watch when it comes out on netflix.

  • bluemorphotat Aug 07, 2013

    Watched already! Excellent casting! Liked it very much! Tennant & Coleman have v. good chemistry!
    I think it was done with great taste, plus I love those small communities by the sea...
    It is not of course the "ultimate drama" but did not feel like I had wasted my time nor anything like that... Would even... rewatch! LOL

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