We live in a world increasingly free from the restraints of the television schedule. It’s a good thing – Netflix, Microsoft and Amazon Prime have introduced us to unabated binge-viewing and boy does it feel great to zip through the likes of House of Cards and Arrested Development.
But when it came to watching Broadchurch, I was glad for the schedule. Why? Because Chris Chibnall gave us something to really savour. His tightly-plotted, twisting and turning narrative served up a different suspect week-on-week – developments that urgently required heated debate around the literal or metaphorical watercooler the following morning. It was event television at its very best and I, along with my friends and colleagues, batted about theory upon theory every Tuesday morning. It was all part of the experience.
So, why was Broadchurch on the tip of our tongues for those eight wintery weeks last year? And why should you award it your precious vote in this year’s Bafta Radio Times Audience Award?
Well, to start with the acting. Rarely does an ensemble cast shine in such equal measure. Yes, it hoisted Olivia Colman to national treasure status – she arguably stole the show, especially in the final episode – but the likes of Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan were exhaustingly moving as the emotionally crippled Latimers while David Bradley’s repentant newsagent Jack Marshall had me in tears.
The backdrop was a sight to behold, Dorset’s sweeping cliffs and rolling hills juxtaposed with the encroaching sense of claustrophobia as each and every Latimer acquaintance revealed their shady past or suspicious movements. And it all felt so eerily credible.
Some claimed the final episode was an anticlimax but, for me, it showed just how clever Broadchurch was. Chibnall allowed us to guess whodunnit – and rather than ramp up the drama ahead of “the big reveal”, he fooled us all, letting the secret out in the first fifteen minutes and making room for Olivia Colman to show what she can really do. Act bloody well.
As a piece of drama, it was perfect. Cleverly weaved together, superbly acted and never baggy. We could spend our time fretting about what the second series has in store – or whether the Americans are going to obliterate it with their remake Gracepoint – but for the time being, let’s celebrate a truly terrific piece of British television making.
With so much on our screens, it’s a rare feat to get the nation talking. Broachurch did and it deserves and needs your vote to win at Bafta this Sunday. It’s over to you…