POOR Broadchurch (STV, Monday). It just can’t win with me.
I think I’m treating it like an old boyfriend whom I loved desperately (series one) but who then cheated on me terribly and broke my heart (series two). Although we’re back together now and things are going well (series three) I just can’t shake off the hurt and betrayal, and so I keep sniping and nagging.I can forgive, Broadchurch, but, oh I cannot forget … Last week, I grumbled because the storyline was being too realistic by keeping the grieving Latimer family in the plot. In such a small and cosy town, where everyone nods hello on the breezy streets, it would be odd for them to ignore the recent death of a local boy, and it wouldn’t ring true if all those nice neighbourly folk didn’t wonder how poor Beth was coping … so it was realistic to have the family back.
It might be a bit of a drag, perhaps unnecessary, and a constant niggling reminder of the poor second series, but the show is named after the town and the clannishness and assumed security of the place is central, so, in the interests of realism, I grudgingly accept the Latimers.
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But just as I was accepting the big dose of realism, this week’s episode abandoned all pretence at it and took several liberties with the truth. There were so many liberties taken that people soon grew bored of liberties and eventually put them on eBay for 99p.
Consider the traumatised Trish, so deeply shocked by her rape that she could barely speak last week. This Monday, she attended a meeting with her counsellor where they discussed intimate, private, appalling things.
So, naturally the meeting was held at a sunny seafront cafe: discussing rape trauma amid the smell of fried doughnuts and raspberry ripple.
“I feel like I’m not in my own body,” said Trish, whose pain was etched deep into her face. “I just wish he’d killed me.”
Meanwhile, Beth spoke of “rape trauma syndrome” and used words such as “sad, angry, exhausted, depressed.” Why was such a harrowing and private meeting held in a sunny, public place where the locals buy their chips?
Was it a clumsy attempt by the writers to show rape survivors that their traumas needn’t be hidden away in hushed and clinical environments?
We got more of the same when the police turned up and held a gruff conversation with Trish at some picnic tables in front of a craft beer stall. This is surely wildly unrealistic, and I suspect is being done for two reasons. The first is to show off the location and drive the deceptively sunny atmosphere of Broadchurch into the viewer. The second is rather more irritating: it’s to preach at the viewer that victims shouldn’t be hidden away. There’s no reason to feel ashamed so, hey, let’s discuss your brutal sexual assault in the seafront cafe where every local yokel can eavesdrop. There’s been a lot of “preaching” in this series, such as Miller getting defensive when a colleague questioned whether Trish had been drinking, when a suspect said Trish wasn’t the “type” of woman who would get raped, and Hardy’s weary rage that sexual assault cases don’t get adequate resources.
This preaching, on very obvious topics that anyone with any decency or sense already appreciates, is threatening to turn a promising third series into a public information film.
However, this preachy tone was offset by the show’s bravery in suggesting Trish has a bold sexual past.
That is a topic we’re still not enlightened enough to cope with easily, and its handling here will determine how good this drama really is.
Every fool knows that a woman may drink what she likes and wear what she wants and it’s not an invitation to rape. Yet when a woman has an unconventional or especially adventurous sexual history then the tabloids, courts, social media and every other small-minded mudslinger still feels able to turn it against her.
I desperately hope that Broadchurch doesn’t shy away from this area. With this third series gathering some strength, I am hopeful it won’t.
TOP Gear (BBC2, Sunday) came back this week and I enjoyed it. Perhaps everyone who endured last year’s ginger-stained atrocity enjoyed it simply because of the absence of Chris Evans.
Maybe it’s like hearing a car alarm go off: you’re about to start going mad and then some workmen begin drilling in the street. Chaos!
When the angry drilling finally stops you’re so relieved that the car alarm, still squealing away in the background, almost sounds melodious.
But I genuinely enjoyed it. It did not, and will never, match the ruddy, bullish, colourful tone of Clarkson and co but they’ve gone to Amazon now and we all just need to accept it.
Stripping the presenting team back to three was a wise move, though I think the trio are, even unconsciously, slipping into the personas of Clarkson, Hammond and May.
Chris Harris was being rude and confrontational, so he’s trying to be the new Clarkson, and Rory Reid was the sweet wee one who might get bullied, so he’s the new Hammond.
Matt LeBlanc is bravely resisting the James May slot, but the other two need to have the guts to develop their own personas.
If they can manage to do that, and if they keep doing epic adventures like the mad race across dry, lunar Kazakhstan, then this new series could be really good. Not Clarkson-good, though. Accept it.