A star rating of 4 out of 5.

Since Broadchurch sailed onto the TV scene back in 2013, few coastal detective dramas have managed to outflank it despite their earnest attempts to recreate David Tennant and Olivia Colman's electric chemistry, the scenic seaside setting and its BAFTA-winning twists and turns – and initially, I thought The Long Call had fallen victim to the same curse.


The upcoming ITV drama, which is based on Vera author Ann Cleeves's novel of the same name, stars Our Girl's Ben Aldridge as Matthew Venn, a detective who moves back to his North Devon hometown with his husband ahead of his father's funeral. It's only when he starts investigating the murder of a mysterious local with a criminal record alongside DS Jen Rafferty (Pearl Mackie) that he begins to confront his strict upbringing and the religious community he grew up in.

On the face of it, The Long Call appears to tick a lot of the Broadchurch-wannabe boxes. A dead body found on the beach – check. A small, tight-knit town on the seaside – check. A lead detective with a complicated family past – check. However, as the first episode very slowly unwinds, the drama begins to stray from the predictable path laid out in front of it, into rich, exciting and potential unmarked territory.

The Long Call

The series opens with Matthew being comforted by his supportive husband Jonathan (Declan Bennett), before gatecrashing the funeral of his late father and being turned away by his cold mother Dorothy (played by the excellent Juliet Stevenson). "You know the worldly aren't supposed to mourn with us. You made your choice when you left us, Matthew," she scolds, returning to the procession as Matthew tries to stifle sobs.

We soon learn that Matthew grew up in a "cult", as his colleague Jen describes it, alongside a community of hardline Evangelical Christians who would berate him for watching TV at friends' houses, thought being gay was sinful and eventually cast him out aged 19 for declaring that he no longer believed.

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Matthew is called to the scene of a murder and after getting through a bit of shoe-horned exposition ("Funeral was it? Anyone close?" Jen asks, a bit insensitively in my opinion), the team start looking into the murder of Simon Walton, a jobless alcoholic who'd moved to Devon after killing a young girl in a drunk driving accident.

With Ben Aldridge shining as the complicated DI Matthew and Doctor Who star Pearl Mackie showing off her versatility as detective sergeant and single mother Jen, The Long Call explores complex themes around sexuality and religion, with Matthew's personal life being more intriguing than the actual murder in the first half of episode one.

However, despite the clunky dialogue and the paint-by-numbers murder mystery that initially appears to be playing out, the drama takes a huge turn in the final quarter, veering into a direction that was so surprising and interest-piquing that it added an extra star onto this review.

While The Long Call gets off to a glacially slow start, it's worth sticking with for Aldridge's impressive turn as British TV's first gay male detective, the intriguing backstory around the potentially sinister "cult" community and an ending that'll hook and completely reel you in.


The Long Call airs on Monday 25th October at 9pm on ITV. Visit our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight, or check out the rest of our Drama coverage.