Tuesday, 10 November 2015


Yes, I know, we are three years behind the rest of you. Sorry. That's our Lovefilm subscription for you, and my fault for missing it on television in the first place. And by the time the Broadchurch discs finally landed on our doormat, I had accidentally found out whodunit from a careless comment by a television reviewer in the Guardian. (Spoiler alert next time, please!) So I was in two minds about whether I should bother watching it after all. But anyway, I did and here we are.

This is ITV's attempt at Scandi Noir. The music is almost copied and pasted in from its Danish forebears; it's too similar to be a coincidence. (Although they would probably prefer to use the word "influence".) We have no quick resolution but instead eight episodes to draw us in, befriend the community, and see the consequences of the tragic events unfold. We don't just get to know the police investigators and the victim's family, but also the wider world at large - the journalists, the vicar, the caravan park cleaner, the plumber's mate. We have to sit through a bunch of red herrings, as each episode focuses on a different suspect before the killer is finally revealed.

But it's not as good as The Killing or The Bridge. We are definitely on ITV rather than BBC4. Somehow detective musings don't work as well in a West Country burr as they do when full of Copenhagen phlegm. And the sun was shining all the way through the first episode, which seemed wrong. But as the story progressed, the rain set in. This was Dorset, after all.

Do all coppers have a brooding and complicated back story? Is this why everyone is so rude to them in television dramas - the police have become so ineffectual in their misery that they can no longer afford respect? Have some sympathy, Joe Public. Besides, even if you are a character on a TV show, shouldn't you be just a little bit scared of someone who has the power to chuck you in a cell if you don't play your cards right? Because being surly, dismissive or just plain unhelpful is definitely not playing your cards right, in my opinion.

And why does everyone have an instant alibi spring to mind? I can't remember what I did yesterday without checking my diary, but these potential suspects can immediately say where they were and what they were doing to the nearest second as soon as they are asked, even if we are talking about weeks before. Although in this particular case, as the body was dumped on the beach in the middle of the night and I don't have much nocturnal fun any more, I would have been 99.9% sure to have been in bed. Whether or not I'd have been asleep would have been in the hands of my five-year-old. And I bet she would be unable to confirm my alibi without growling at the police officer. (I wish she would stop doing that.)

Apparently, the writers of Broadchurch didn't tell the cast who the murderer was before they filmed the final episode. So every actor was going through the whole thing not knowing whether it was them. While this is kind of a good idea for the innocent parties, surely you have to tell the actual murderer? Otherwise how can an actor give an accurate performance if they don't know they have something to hide? As I knew from the start who it was, I watched their character closely from the get-go. And they always seemed a little too innocuous and complacent given the torment they were in at the end. It was too much of a personality transplant in the last hour of the series. But of course it always has to be the person you suspect the least, just like in the days of Agatha Christie.

Most of Broadchurch was filmed in West Bay on Dorset's Jurassic Coast, and we were there in August, despite not having seen Broadchurch at the time. It was a drizzly, grey day and we almost had the beach to ourselves. In the gloom, West Bay looked exactly like the sort of desolate community where a misfit murderer might lurk. It was rundown and sad. The sea was hidden from the car park by an enormous pile of gravel. Other than a quirky antiques-centre-slash-street-food-emporium, it was a melancholy collection of shabby hotels, chandlers and charity shops. The surprisingly snazzy Broadchurch police station was a property redevelopment on the quay that looked empty and out of keeping with the rest of the town.

It might have all looked rather more appealing in better weather. Indeed those cliffs in the sun on the first episode of Broadchurch looked absolutely stunning, despite having a dead boy at the foot of them. In the rain, they looked fit to crumble. Which of course they are.

She would not confirm my alibi

The site of the dead boy

The police station on the quay.

Jurassic Coast

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