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By Brad Oswald / Watching TV

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Forecast for Brit import: hot

Summer of televised excellence continues with harrowing British police drama

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- The summer of 2013 continues to be hot, hot, HOT.

While it's true the weather in and around Winnipeg has been something of a hit-or-miss affair, with temperatures ranging from cool to cooking and rainfall arriving by the bucket, sometimes accompanied by funnel clouds, the situation indoors - specifically, on the small screen that offers a few hours of entertainment at the end of those unsettled summer days - has been consistently and unseasonably intense.

Broadchurch, a BBC import, has its North American première on Sunday, Aug. 4 on Showcase.


Broadchurch, a BBC import, has its North American première on Sunday, Aug. 4 on Showcase.

This has not been a summer filled with pointless reality-TV junk, perfectly skippable reruns and pitiful burnoffs of long-since-cancelled series; instead, thanks to such formidable new arrivals as Ray Donovan, The Bridge, Top of the Lake and The Fall, as well as the long-awaited return of Breaking Bad's final eight-episode run (beginning Aug. 11), this truly is a summer to be watched and remembered.

Adding to the list of televised excellence this week is Broadchurch, an ITV import that has its North American premi®re on Sunday, Aug. 4 on Showcase (check listings for time). In addition to garnering rave reviews from the British press when it aired there earlier this year, the brooding murder-mystery series has earned the distinctly digital-age title of being the most-tweeted U.K. drama ever.

Set in a quiet seaside tourist town that is shocked by the murder of a young boy and an investigation that turns up more secrets than anyone might have imagined the little village could conceal, Broadchurch is a harrowing cop drama that ranks among the best the Brits have sent our way in recent years.

David Tennant (Doctor Who) and Olivia Colman (The Iron Lady) play the two detectives assigned to solve the most difficult crime the close-knit community has ever experienced, and Jodie Whitaker (One Day) and Andrew Buchan (Bones) tackle the difficult roles of the murdered boy's grieving parents.

It is, obviously, a wrenchingly emotional tale; one of the toughest acting assignments belongs to Colman as local Det.-Sgt. Ellie Miller, who has just been passed over for a big promotion and whose young son was the victim's best friend.

"Getting to the emotional point you needed to get to wasn't a problem at all," Colman said when Broadchurch's cast and producers met with the press during BBC America's portion of the U.S. networks' summer press tour in Los Angeles. "Everyone has some children in their lives that they are related to or that (are) their friends' children that you love. And this is the worst possible thing you can imagine.

"So it's very easy to access how awful that is. Personally, I've always been a fairly emotional person anyway. With children, I have no armour at all, so there were lots of scenes where (the script) said, 'Ellie doesn't cry,' and I was, kind of, 'Good luck with that, because I'm afraid I won't be able to stop.'"

The emotional counterpart to Miller is Det.-Insp. Alec Hardy (Tennant), a recent import from another jurisdiction who has been handed the job Ellie coveted. Aloof, detached and with no connections in the community, Hardy is determined to do things by the book and is enraged to find it's difficult to keep details of an investigation secret in a small town where everybody knows everybody else's business.

Ellie's an experienced cop who knows how the job's supposed to be done, but she's also best friends with the grieving parents and has a nephew who's an ambitious young reporter with the local newspaper. Things get said, and even when they don't, someone's bound to get the message bound up in a non-statement statement.

"This could happen even if you live in a big city (because) you have your own little community," Colman explained. "It's your neighbours in the apartment block. It's, you know, the person in the shop. So if it's that close where you come from, I don't think it matters if it's set in an urban environment or a beautiful beach setting.

"But I think it was because (the setting) was so beautiful, it just seemed so wrong that something so bleak could happen in a holiday destination place. But it did, and the juxtaposition was what (screenwriter Chris Chibnall) used to really highlight it."

The eight-part series created an immediate buzz among TV critics gathered here for the press tour, with many saying they sat down to sample a couple of episodes before writing about it and ended up watching the entire eight-episode collection of preview DVDs.

During what has already been the best summer, TV-wise, in recent memory, Broadchurch provides yet another reason for frantically clearing space on the overloaded PVR.


brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 1, 2013 C7


Updated on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 8:22 AM CDT: Replaces photo

9:28 AM: Changed to ITV from BBC

August 4, 2013 at 10:18 AM: Corrects typo

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