Saturday, February 21, 2015

Broadchurch, Happy Valley & The Slap

So Sorry for all of the television posts -- it's winter and I'm not doing much other than working and using Apple TV to search for shows to watch.  I don't always sleep the way I'd like, so I now find programs to watch in the early hours  and I've enjoyed three series lately -- two English and one Australian show (still watching).  They're all good -- VERY good.

Tennant and Colman
Broadchurch is an English series -- only the first is available through Netflix, so I only have one to judge.  It's set in a seaside town and the entire first season revolves around the murder of a young boy and its affect on his family and community.  The police detectives are played by David Tennant (of Dr. Who fame) and Olivia Colman.  Tennant's character is a transplant transferred to the town to lead the team and is still affected by a botched case in another city.  Coleman is a native of the town and was shocked in the early episode to learn she wasn't getting the promotion she expected, so had to not only deal with the murder of this young boy (whom she knew) and a new boss.  Like a good mystery, we get to know many town people and all are suspect -- while seeing their lives, we learn many secrets along the way, emphasizing guilt or just personal missteps and truths. The final episode of the first show exposes the killer and resolves some issues, but allows for viewer investment curious about what the second season holds in store.  Everyone is good in this -- gripping and entertaining in a quiet and painful way.

Finneran and Lancashire
I found Happy Valley as I search options for another show to watch.  The photo looked like a female fire fighter -- it's actually the lead character in her police uniform played brilliantly by Sarah Lancashire.  I'm so used to British shows having DCI's in street clothes that I was surprised to see a show about a police officer wearing a uniform.  Sarah's character is a sergeant in a small northern (Lancashire) town who finds herself investigating a kidnapping while also addressing a personal backstory -- and the worlds meet.  When I first started to watch, it felt like I was watching Fargo, so I googled the two and found numerous comparisons....except Happy Valley is not funny.  Lancashire is brilliant as a small town sergeant who is willing to chase criminals and lead a team as she approaches the age of 50.  Not much is said about her professional past, but we know she was once a detective and shifted back to uniform after the suicide of her young daughter.  That event was sparked by the pregnancy of her daughter through rape and resulted in a young child, left to be raised by Lancashire and her sister, a recovering heroin addict played by Siobhan Finneran (O'brien from Downton Abbey).  The crime that becomes the center of the show is the abduction of a young woman for ransom -- this is the storyline like Fargo as it's somewhat botched from the beginning, but this series is a little more grim and violent, not funny at all.  Like Broadchurch, the case is solved by the last episode, but the viewer is clearly enamored with the main character and it leaves you longing for more.  What a delight to see a middle-aged hero....reminds me of the start of all of this with Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect -- flawed hero, good detective, outstanding acting.

I'm now in the middle of  The Slap -- the original Australian version which inspired the upcoming American show.  The premise is about a group of 40 something friends and the focus of their lives and relationships begins with a birthday barbecue that ends poorly with one of the characters slapping a child for misbehaving.  So simple.  Each episode after the first then focuses on an individual character and we see their current lives and issues  --- but more importantly, how this incident is affecting them in the midst of their personal turmoils.  The acting is great and I can see why American producers picked up on the show.  The Australian version is probably more explicit than the American  show can be.  The entire cast is wonderful and it feels like a more modern and sad thirtysomething.  

Great good.  Perfect acting and story lines....enough to make winter tolerable.  Foreign programs have a grit that's lacking in American's hard to describe.  There seems to be less of an emphasis on appearance and action and more on acting and character development.  I hope you agree.

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