August 15, 2013

THE SKED PILOT + 1 REVIEW: “Broadchurch”


BROADCHURCH:  Wednesday 10PM on BBCAmerica

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on BROADCHURCH:  In the small Dorset town of Broadchurch, the body of 11-year old Danny Latimer has been found on the beach, just as the local police force has, coincidentally, just hired brooding Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (David Tennant), fresh off a bad recent experience with another high-profile murder case.  His number 2, who was passed over for promotion when Hardy was hired, is local Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman), who’s bitter about having to report to Hardy and whose own son may know more about Danny than he’s letting on.

Episode 2:  The second hour of Broadchurch, written by series creator Chris Chibnall and directed by James Strong, doesn’t remove the show’s whiff of been-there-done-that as it goes about its intense but not unfamiliar paces.  An assortment of potential clues are scattered about, as we learn that Danny had been seen arguing with a local postman not long before his death; that his sister Chloe (Charlotte Beaumont) had cocaine hidden in her room, obtained from the boyfriend who she’s keeping secret; and that Danny’s skateboard is in the closet of Susan Wright (Pauline Quirke), a suspiciously dour housecleaner.  There is what appears to be the first legitimate break in the case, as the murder scene is identified as a house two miles from where the body was found.  There’s also what seems likely to be the first major red herring, thanks to the collapse of Danny’s father Mark’s (Andrew Buchan) alibi for the night of the murder, and his refusal to even try very hard to come up with another.  Making things even messier in the Latimer household:  Danny’s mother Beth (Jodie Whittaker) is pregnant.  And then there’s the phone installation guy Steve (Will Mellor), who claims to be a psychic getting messages from Danny beyond the grave saying that he was put into a boat before being killed.

Apart from the general atmosphere of understandable misery and suspicion (Danny’s family makes a list of possible suspects, which consists of all their friends and Danny’s teachers), any deepening characterization in the episode is limited.  Hardy remains brusque and haunted by his prior case (with a hint that there may be something physically wrong with him as well, although that could turn out to be stress-related), and Miller is frustrated by his dour, seemingly unfeeling cynicism and his very presence as her boss.  Meanwhile, London reporter Karen White (Vicky McClure) may as well walk around town with a placard reading “I Am A Manipulative Bitch,” as she lays the groundwork for squeezing information out of naive local reporter Olly Stevens (Jonathan Bailey) and grieving Chloe.

Broadchurch is absorbing and intelligent, but apart from the challenge of parsing out what Tennant is saying in his Scottish brogue, so far it’s not terribly distinctive.  It’s a more effective piece of narrative than The Killing, comparatively well focused and tightly paced, yet it lacks anything as engaging as the relationship on that show between Linden and Holder, or the socioeconomic scope of The Bridge.  It’s hard to see, two hours in, why the show became a phenomenon in Great Britain.  (The show wasn’t included in any list of last week’s major cable ratings, and BBCAmerica didn’t even issue a press release to tout its numbers, so it doesn’t appear to be duplicating that success here.)  Perhaps the remaining 6 hours will make all that clear.


PILOT + 1:  Strong But So Far Not Remarkable

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."