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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Broadchurch, ITV1

Broadchurch is a close-knit community. Everyone knows everyone – and we’re shown this from the get-go. The tracking shot that follows Mark Latimer (Andrew Buchan) down Broadchurch high street as he greets every single person that walks past him by their first name reminded me of one of those adverts in which Joe Bloggs is applauded and congratulated by every random passer-by because he chose the right car insurance/mortgage/credit card.

Nevertheless, any good feeling is diffused rapidly by the discovery of the body of Latimer’s 11 year-old son, Danny, sprawled on the beach beneath a high cliff. Thus begins a police investigation in which the negative implications of the close-knit nature of Broadchurch are thrown into stark relief. DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) struggles to balance her professional role with her personal response to the death of her 11-year old son’t best friend. Colman delivers a perfectly-pitched performance, her anguish clearly visible as she tries to come to terms with the tragedy and what it means for her family and friends, whilst being forced to proceed objectively with the formal investigation.

David Tennant’s portrayal of DI Alec Hardy, a policeman sent to Broadchurch to lie low, after his involvement in controversial murder case, perfectly compliments Colman’s fragility. His stoic professionalism doesn’t often falter, although we’re given a brief glimpse of his true emotions on the beach when he is confronted with the sight of the young boy’s body.

But the tragedy is brought into the sharpest focus during a scene in the Latimers’ living room when they are informed of Danny’s death. Beth Latimer’s (Jodie Whittaker) raw devastation and shock at the news about her son is truly heartbreaking.

As the episode progresses, the viewer begins to form opinions of certain people based on first impressions: the unfriendly-looking woman smoking a cigarette outside her home above the beach; the older owner of the newsagent on the beachfront (David Bradley); even Danny’s father at times. They could all be innocent  but we have a natural tendency to judge people and assume that anyone who exhibits behaviour outside the norm is automatically a suspect. Broadchurch plays on this, and it makes for uncomfortable but effective viewing.

The invasive side of the media was a prominent theme. We meet Olly (Jonathan Bailey), the aspiring journalist working for the local rag but with his sights set on the national papers. He’d received a rejection from the Daily Mail, but watching him reveal the identity of the victim on Twitter before it was confirmed officially, I’m inclined to think he’ll go far. Murdoch will snap him up – he appears to have what it takes. Broadchurch, it seems, is not on the side of national media. Whilst the editor of the Broadchurch Echo (Carolyn Pickles) supports members of the community and apologises for Olly’s behaviour, the journalist from the Daily Herald is portrayed as goal-driven and heartless as we witness her removing the soft toy from the beach, placed there by Danny’s sister as a tribute to her brother.

The sending of the tweet causes us to consider the implications of social media, too. ‘Bloody Twitter’ exclaims Hardy as Olly’s tweet reaches national newsdesks within minutes, and the family of the victim are left to cope with the pain of unavoidable exposure. It raises important questions about the role of social media in reporting criminal investigations. Is it a powerful medium that can relay current affairs stories rapidly to a wide audience? Or is it merely a vehicle for speculation and gossip? It’s topical stuff: only in the last month have similar questions been raised in relation to the reporting of murder charges against athlete Oscar Pistorius.

Some last-minute twists as the episode drew to a close left me craving the next instalment. Overall, Broadchurch made for some darn good viewing. A strong cast, an intriguing plot, plenty of suspicion, and all topped off with some gert lush West Country accents. I await next week’s episode with great anticipation.

Mr Selfridge, ITV1

To be honest, if it wasn’t for the fact that it offers mindless procrastination for a Monday afternoon when I should be writing an essay, I doubt I’d still be watching Mr Selfridge. And now that Towie‘s back to perform this particular function, I do wonder if it’s worth it.

Mr Selfridge is probably one of the blandest and most obvious period dramas I’ve watched in a good while. And that includes The Paradise, which, having watched for roughly half an hour, I get the impression was just the same thing except without adverts, meaning it automatically wins in the level-of-interest stakes. Mr Selfridge essentially takes every single period drama cliché you can think of and churns out the same product week after week after week. I’ve taken to watching each episode with a particular formula in mind, and seeing if it fits. Because this is obviously what you were missing in your life, I’ve reproduced the formula for the Average Selfridge Episode (ASE) below:

ASE = rv + bp + (RG±m) – AS + 2fe + mp

Humour me and allow me to elaborate.

1. rv = renowned visitor. Every Mr Selfridge episode revolves around the visit to the store of a famous guest. So far we’ve had Anna Pavlova, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir Ernest Shackleton to name but a few. It’s like the writers can’t function without the same framework every week: famous person visits store; Selfridge family gets excited; windows are created in honour of said celebrity, giving Agnes and French Guy a chance to get frisky over window-hangings; an event is held featuring the celebrity; someone turns up who shouldn’t (Ellen Love, ghost wife, needy artist); scandal ensues.

I’m making predictions for who the guest will be next week. Probably someone culturally relevant for the time period, but it would be way more interesting if the credits rolled, the doors opened and Selfridge stood there baring his substantial set of teeth (see 5.) and annouced: ‘Today we will be joined by Lady Gaga!’ In fact, they should turn it into some kind of reality show in which celebrity guests have to see how far through the episode they can get without falling asleep/getting hit on by French Guy. That would be FAR more entertaining.

2. bp = borrowed plot. There are a lot of these, but the one that made me guffaw with incredulity the most was the whole ‘affair with the artist’ debacle . Edwardian aristocratic American woman meets young working class artist; he shows her his drawings and she agrees to let him paint her in secret. And then they end up kissing. And American woman is called Rose. Let’s see now, where have I seen this before…? All I’m saying is it’s a good job you don’t get icebergs in the National Gallery…

3. R = relationship of the week, G = gooseberry of the week. The two work together to create the blandest and most predictable sequences of events possible. Obviously French Guy and Agnes were bound to get together, leaving Victor as the gooseberry. Obviously French Girl was then bound to come back, making Agnes the gooseberry. And prediction for next week: Mr Grove will continue to pursue Doris, making Miss Mardle the gooseberry. (It’s ok, though. She’s going to join the Suffragette movement which, according to Miss Ravilious is an antidote to gooseberryism and general loneliness. Also I just IMDB’d Miss Mardle, and in real life she’s the long-term partner of Martin Freeman. So really she’ll be fine.)

R often involves Mr and Mrs Selfridge, leading to inevitable m = marital problems. (Unless of course they both contribute to R, in which case they’re happy and so the value for m is negative, not positive. Something like that anyway. I was never a maths person.)

4. AS = Actual Scandal. There’s usually one per week, and they make the storylines vaguely interesting. For example the car crash, Agnes’ drunk dad, Miss Bunting’s train incident. But they’re still a bit, well, obvious. Let’s compare these moments of scandal to those in Downton Abbey (pre-series 3 when it started to be actually rubbish, not just endearingly rubbish). I’m pretty sure that before Downton we’d never seen a gay love affair between a duke and a footman feature in the same series as a Turkish diplomat dying in a Lady’s bed. And unfortunately Downton pipped Mr Selfridge to the post on the whole car crash thing as well. To add insult to literal injury, in Downton‘s crash someone actually died. Sorry, Selfridge.

5. fe = facial expressions, specifically those of Mr Selfridge (Jeremy Piven). This value is multiplied by two because he only has two: that of a lonely walrus for when he’s disappointed – think mournful eyes and excessively downcast mouth, accentuated by the shape of his beard – and that of a toothpaste commercial frontman for his press moments – his impossibly white teeth bared in a unceasingly upbeat grin. I’m surprised he doesn’t strain his jaw. Maybe that’s when the walrus look comes out.

6. mp = moralistic pontificating. We’re not quite at Lark Rise to Candleford level yet (by far the worst culprit), but we’re getting there. ‘Stealing is bad; treat your staff well; I shouldn’t have acted so stuck-up; if only I’d been a better friend’. Blah blah blah. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with all of these statements. But morals do not good TV drama make. Imagine if Benedict Cumberbatch suddenly paused, turned to camera, and explained why what Moriarty was doing was wrong halfway through an episode of Sherlock. Would he do that? No. Because a) it would ruin any kind of tension and b) I’d like to think that we can all work out that stealing/letting down a friend/strapping a bomb to someone are pretty bad things to do.

And that’s the formula. So far, it hasn’t failed. I’m kind of disappointed really, considering the series is written by Andrew Davies, the man behind Pride and Prejudice and Bleak House, two of my favourite TV dramas, like, ever. Maybe he should just stick to adaptations… Anyway, I welcome any suggestions of participants for my new reality TV project, Stranded in Selfridges. Please leave recommendations below.