In all honesty, I wasn’t much looking forward to this drama premiere. After all, seen one TV series based on a murder, seen them all. Perhaps not.
Broadchurch has been promoted extensively in recent weeks, clips peppered with well known actors, promising to be something a bit different from your Midsomers and Morses.
A camera weaves through a seaside town, focusing on local plumber, Mark Latimer, played by Andrew Buchan. In this opening scene we are casually introduced to the residents of a picturesque coastal resort town.
At first glance, the sleepy seaside town of Broadchurch seems idyllic – a calm haven on the beautiful Dorset coast. All very Doc Martin. Pretty soon though, the townsfolk are in unfamiliar territory – as ice creams and flip flops are exchanged for fear and loss.
And for some the loss is personal. As the parents of 11-year-old Danny Latimer face the crushing blow of losing a child. What is initially thought to be a possible suicide/accident soon becomes a murder investigation.
Flavour of the month, David Tennant has swapped his police box for a police station, starring as detective inspector Alec Hardy, newly appointed boss of DS Ellie Miller, played by Peep Show’s Olivia Colman. Both portray the roles masterfully, bringing a realism to the drama that in other shows is often unseen.
It’s been a busy time for the former Doctor Who actor. If he hasn’t been on our screens helping Richard Branson shift digital TV boxes, then his gentle Scottish tones have been heard narrating the excellent penguin documentary series, Spy in the Huddle.
But Tennant is more at home in a quality acting role – as is the equally talented Colman. The duo’s onscreen chemistry is instant. Hardy is apparently starting afresh following some controversy at his previous place of work. Miller has to deal with the loss of her son’s best friend and being passed over for promotion. A position that Tennant’s character acquired in her place.
As impressive as Colman and Tennant are, this truly is an ensemble cast. Pauline Quirke, slotted into several scenes, doesn’t utter a word – but clearly oozes a menacing presence. And a bedraggled newsagent – played by dependable David Bradley – looks as slimy as could be.
Elsewhere, keen young reporter Oliver Stevens, played by Jonathan Bailey, is desperate to make the big time. Not surprising really. Offices for the Broadchurch Echo wouldn’t have looked out of place in Steptoe’s yard.
His ambition leads to a national journalist in the form of Vicky McClure, unrecognisable here to her fan base.
Those who know her better as Lol from the This Is England franchise may fail to recognise her as Karen White. Another of our more versatile rising stars.
But above all, Danny’s mother, Beth, brings a sickening realism to the storyline. Jodie Whittaker is superb as the young mother, consumed by grief, giving a performance that would make any parent well-up.
And underpinning the story, Colman and Tennant are fabulous. Ellie’s emotions are so real, those of a person who has been a stalwart of her community – known and respected by many – and now with a quiet determination to gain justice for the dead boy.
DI Hardy is not as easy to fathom. Tennant plays him as a real cold fish, but I warmed to him when he went into a rage about Twitter. Nothing like a bit of common ground to sway me. In the programme, the social network site had been used to name Danny as the dead boy.
Stylish and compelling, episode one came to a close with Hardy addressing a press conference, assuring the public that the killer of Danny Latimer will be found.
Broadchurch is quite unlike your run-of-the-mill police dramas. The focus frequently shifts from the grieving Latimer family, to the difficult relationship between Hardy and Miller and the finger pointing firmly at a wider community, one that appears to have more to disclose than last night’s opener revealed.
Who will the guilty party be? Only time will tell. And you can bet your bottom dollar that a few blind alleys lie in store over the weeks ahead.