The pile of nonsense written about Broadchurch – to which, I concede, I’m about to contribute further – continues to accumulate. This week the Radio Times was back for more, with a preview in which it tried to construct an almost entirely phoney ratings war between this show and Silent Witness, both popular, both showing at 9pm on Mondays. Now, the ratings are interesting to people who are interested in that sort of thing (like me – this week Witness edged ahead); and, at least in the case of Broadchurch, to advertisers. Beyond that the fact that the shows are on at the same time is irrelevant to viewers: anyone who likes both can watch one live and avail themselves of the catch-up options for the other. Or even, perhaps, use one of them there video recorders and tape one.
Anyway, the Radio Times is almost never knowingly out-cheerleadered when it comes to overrated British drama, but this week a note of peevish defensiveness was detectable: “Broadchurch… has taken flak for its courtroom scenes, which would in real life be drowned out by cries of ‘Contempt of court!’ (NB: no they wouldn’t. Can’t anyone spend a couple of minutes researching this stuff?) But then – forensic scientists who go on police raids and interview suspects? Surely not?”
One can almost see the folded arms, hear the “so what do you say to that, then?”. Yet again, though, the point is in all likelihood missed. At least I think it is. I don’t watch Silent Witness, but if you do you know what to expect, and I’m guessing that each episode doesn’t pick up on the procedural improprieties of the previous one.
That all having been said, it should in fairness be noted that the week’s Broadchurch wasn’t great, or even particularly good, but it was probably the best episode since the first of the season, the one which fooled us into thinking that the level of quality in the previous season was going to be maintained. The courtroom stuff is still barely tolerable, and the fall-out between Sharon and Jocelyn about the former’s son can be added to the already long list of Things I Really Don’t Care About. The most absurd exchange this week was probably between Rev Paul and Sharon, affecting bafflement – “If you’re so sure about his guilt, why have you been visiting him?” – that Paul had been acting like, well, a priest. (Although one might also wonder why it took everyone more than three seconds to work out that Googling ‘Thorp Agri’ might be the best way to find out something about Thorp Agri.)
Jodie Whittaker as Beth and Olivia Colman as Ellie continue to provide grace notes – Ellie’s conversation with her son was the only point this week at which Colman was required to do some proper acting, which of course she more than managed. And she now even has a Conspiracy Wall! Meantime Jodie is still getting dragged into the reformed sex offender cul-de-sac, this week with a church full of nonces. (That must have been a fun day in the casting department.) But Whittaker is convincing as someone trying, and failing, to hide her pain.
And in the hitherto redundant Sandbrook case, things are starting to move, even if I found it impossible to keep up with who is supposed to have shagged whom in Doggers’ Lane, where Lee and Ricky were living at the time of the murder(s). (Lee’s ability to silently materialise at a distance from crucial scenes is starting to annoy me.) Admittedly the plotting is along the same lines as season 1 – anyone could have done it – but at least we now have a list of suspects, a possible alternative scenario under which the missing girl might yet be alive, and in Ricky a grieving parent. Who might also be a guilty parent, but one doesn’t preclude the other. All in all, then, a bare pass.