Welcome to another look back at what was an interesting week in UK TV.
This week’s major dramas all seemed to have the recurring theme of a tragic incident and how it affected a certain small community. In the case of ITV’s Broadchurch it was the death of 11 year old Danny Latimer that had an impact on almost every member of the titular seaside community. The discovery of the body on the beach is the first big case in Broadchurch for DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) who has journeyed to the area for a quieter life. He finds it hard to work alongside his partner DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) who has just returned from maternity leave to find out that somebody has taken the job that was promised to her. The case is especially hard for Ellie due to the fact that her son was Danny’s best friend while she is also close with Danny’s mother Beth (Jodie Whittaker). The investigation into Danny’s murder sees the balance between Alec’s detached personality and Ellie’s more personal touch used to full effect. Broadchurch also looks at the media involvement in the case with the cosy local press attempting to support the police that is apart from Ellie’s ambitious nephew Olly (Jonathan Bailey) who leaks the information on Twitter. The news eventually reaches the national papers where Daily Herald reporter Karen White (Vicky McClure) convinces her editor to let her journey to Broadchurch mainly because she has history with Hardy. Meanwhile we are given a number of characters to suspect including the local vicar (Arthur Darvill), the mysterious woman with a caravan on the beach (Pauline Quirke) and even Ellie’s son Tom (Adam Wilson) who is seen deleting text messages from Danny. Even Danny’s dad Mark (Andrew Buchan) is under the spotlight as it is clear he has lied to his wife about where he went the night of Danny’s death and this alone has given us all cause for suspicion.
I think after the first part of Broadchurch had aired most people were already hooked in thanks to a number of key scenes including the first image of Danny up on the cliff just before his murder. To me Broadchurch just feels different from any other British crime drama series as we focus in on a number of key characters rather than just the detectives working the case. It also has an arty titles sequence, a striking theme tune and doesn’t have one of those annoying spoiler-filled trailers for next week’s episode which in my mind leaves you completely on edge. Writer Chris Chibnall really gives you a sense of place and paints Broadchurch as somewhere where everybody knows your name so the fact that a young boy has been murdered sends shockwaves through the town. The fact that at the end of episode one I still know very little about Danny is a testament to Chibnall who establishes the key facts but doesn’t reveal everything straight away. This means that some of the characters, including those played by Quirke and Darvill, have had very little to do other than look a bit suspicious. The heart and soul of Broadchurch though is definitely Olivia Colman who portrays Ellie perfectly playing her as an emotional woman who is forced to investigate the murder of her son’s best friend. I also like the fact that Ellie isn’t your normal TV copper as she seems to get on with all of her colleagues and actually has a stable home life. Andrew Buchan and Jodie Whittaker were also utterly captivating as the parents who’d lost their son and were faced with the fact that someone in their community was the perpetrator. Everything about Broadchurch is so perfect that I almost don’t want to watch any more of the series as I feel at some point it will become a disappointment. However, going by its opening episode, Broadchurch has everything from great performances to a marvellous script and excellent camerawork which to me marks it out as the best mainstream drama of 2013 so far.
The BBC’s big drama event of the week was Mayday which again looked at how a tragedy involving a young person affected the small community. However whereas everybody seemed to get along in Broadchurch the majority of those in Mayday really appeared to despise each other. The central tragedy in Mayday was the disappearance of fourteen year old Hattie Sutton (Leila Mimmack) who had gone missing on her way to appearing as May Queen in the town’s parade. We are then immediately presented with three central suspects the first of whom is property developer Malcolm Spicer (Peter Firth) who hates Hattie as she was one of the protestors who stopped him developing on a local field. As the drama goes on we discover that Malcolm’s wife Gail (Lesley Manville) is unaware that her husband is a bit of a pervert and that he has also lost a chunk of their life savings. Meanwhile outcast Linus (Max Fowler) suspects his aggressive father Everett (Aidan Gillen) who is suspciously dragging around a large, heavy sports bag that he won’t let his son see. . Linus’ relationship with Everett has also been fragile ever since Linus’ mother died however the circumstances of her death are also left up in the air for the majority of Mayday. Linus also pines for Hattie’s twin sister Caitlin who essentially snogs the face off every boy in town but is drawn to Linus following Hattie’s disappearance. The final suspect is Alan Hill (Peter MacDonald) whose wife Fiona (Sophie Okonedo) is a former police officer and is intrigued by clues hinting to her husband as the abductor. However it remains to be seen whether or not her natural detective instincts will allow her to believe that her husband was involved in the kidnap, and later death, of a fourteen year old schoolgirl.
I feel that Mayday suffered slightly from being on the same week as Broadchurch as ITV’s new drama blew this BBC product out of the water. I think the main issue with Mayday was that it just didn’t feel very real from the get-go and became more surreal as the week drew on. The final straw for me was when it was revealed that the motivation for Hattie’s murder came from a curse she had put on the murderer who believed her to be a white witch. Personally I found that this wasn’t a satisfying reveal particularly considering the fact that I’d just watched four episodes to find who’d done it. Another problem I had with Mayday was that I didn’t particularly like a lot of the characters paritcularly Everett mainly because Aiden Gillen appeared to be doing an impression of an Irish man who couldn’t fully open his mouth. However as Everett was revealed to be a decent guy Gillen dropped the aggressive voice and by the fifth episode seemed to be enjoying a new relationship with his son. I even failed to feel for some of the more sympathetic characters like Linus and Caitlin who engage in a weird relationship.Thankfully there were a few highlights namely Sophie Okenodo whose character’s twists and turns were brilliantly done and whose scenes in the final episode were the only bits worth watching. I also enjoyed the fact that the majority of Lesley Manville’s storyline was separated from the Hattie search as she portrayed a woman who found out that her husband was a liar who preferred to spend time watching boys on the internet than he did walking their dog. In fact I would’ve much preferred to watch a drama just based around Manville’s storyline rather than the disappointing disappearance plot but sadly that didn’t happen. Though Mayday had its moments I feel that overall it was a bit of a let down as it didn’t provide any of its loyal viewers with a satisfying conclusion.
You can probably guess what the tragedy is that affects the lives of the protagonists of BBC3’s The Crash as we see how a road accident changes the lives of a group of seven youngsters. We are initially introduced to Kate Harper (Sacha Parkinson) who has returned home after her first time at university to be reunited with her boyfriend Tom Harris (Lewis Rainer). As she gradually meets up with all of her friends they agree to go to a local pub however on the way back a number of elements result in the two cars the group are in crashing into one another. The drama then gives us some more background to each character by showing us events that happened sixth months ago in the lead up to the end of school prom. So we see the start of the relationship between Tom’s brother Brian (Josh Bolt) and the bookish rebel Leah (Dary Isa) as well as the reconciliation between Leah’s sister Rachel (Georgia Henshaw) and ex-boyfriend Ethan (James Burrows). Personally I found the most compelling character to be Ashley (Lily Loveless) whose mother had passed away and father had dementia which meant she had to be a little bit more grown up then her friends. It is through Ashley’s eyes that we survey the aftermath of the crash which for me was definitely the strongest part of the programme. To me The Crash was ultimately successful and although some of Terry Cafolla’s dialogue for his younger characters was a little clichéd he made up for it with a thrilling final act. The fact that I wanted to know who had lived and who had died meant that I had emotionally invested in the characters which was a testament to the young cast. The standout for me was definitely former Skins actress Loveless though on the whole the cast gave a good accounting of themselves while they shared a great chemistry which made me believe in their friendship. I also found The Crash to be incredibly well-researched and almost a cautionary tale for BBC3’s key demographic who may think twice now about how they drive during dark rainy nights.
Talking of BBC3 we stay on that channel for our final show – sitcom Bluestone 42 which courted controversy when it was first announced as it deals with a bomb disposal squad in Afghanistan. The leader of the Bluestone 42 squadron is bomb disposal expert Nick (Oliver Chris) who in the first episode is tasked with looking after an obnoxious American veteran (Mike McShane) who is killed after removing his helmet. The rest of the episode looks at the aftermath of this death with Nick’s commanding officer (Tony Gardner) wanting him to write a full report of the event while also arranging the American’s funeral. The programme also sees a new chaplain Mary (Kelly Adams) being appointed with Nick trying everything in his power to get her into bed. Despite its slightly controversial setting Bluestone 42 is essentially an old-school wartime sitcom in the vein of It Aint’ Half Hot Mum or even Dad’s Army. The classic characters are all there from the arrogant leader to the put-upon second-in-command as well as the dumb Scottish lackeys who are utterly vulgar. While Bluestone 42 didn’t have any big laughs it did have some believable banter between the characters who employed the same kind of gallows humour that we’ve seen real troops use in programme such as Our War. While there were some obvious gags, such as the only woman in the platoon having the surname Bird, Bluestone 42 overall had a likeable cast and some decent set pieces. I also hope that the controversy has died down as I feel it hasn’t been disrespectful in its depiction of the troops but instead has set out to explore the humour employed when British troops are deployed to Afghanistan.
Right that’s your lot for now and remember you can follow me on Twitter @mattstvbites