Aside from the murder mystery itself which hovers someplace between soap opera and police procedural, I think what hooks me on the BBC TV serial "Broadchurch" is simply the faces of the actors ... that, and the fact that they seem able to act.
But I have always been a sucker for faces in their gross and minuscule realignments, their tales told in nanoseconds ... or rather, my imagining of tales told. American actors and actresses and plots so often flat-line into beauty or glamour or pyrotechnics ... I don't wonder at the ruined, truncated lives that peek out of Hollywood. I do wonder if the suicide rate is quite so high in England.
Anyway, I was sucked along by "Broadchurch" last night, watching two or three or four episodes in a row, as much as anything by the faces of those who depicted the tale of a dead 11-year-old boy and whodunnit. The setting is a seaside town inhabited by the kind of people on whom "Downton Abbey" makes its living. I can't watch "Downton Abbey" any more: The seduction is too obvious and the pretense too quietly galling.
For all that, the faces of "Broadchurch" have a British (or is it simply human?) insistence on keeping things under wraps ... until, as is life's wont, the wraps come off, whether by accident or because the well-tailored wraps invariably bind like a hangman's noose.
Occasionally, "Broadchurch" strays into a land of soap opera, injecting one more quirk of character or revelation because things have gotten a bit slow, but generally the faces carry it and the plot is conceivable if not always entirely credible. My mother once said that when she hit a roadblock in writing fiction, she would relight the momentum by "killing another character."
To call "Broadchurch" a tale of an "ordinary" town with "ordinary" inhabitants is to go to the heart of what the hell "ordinary" actually does or can mean. In one sense, everyone is ordinary as salt. On the other, salt has a magnetic savor. Are all people and events equally interesting or important? Only an idealistic teenager might say so. I choose my points of impact and importance and you pick yours.