Best television of 2013

As others have also said, some of the best and most interesting filmmaking, acting, and screenwriting is taking place not in the movies but in the historically-less respected medium of television.   I am appreciating how television can develop a story and characters over many hours and weeks, as opposed to the couple of hours that is all movies and plays have to work with (about the time a human being can sit still).  My pick for the best TV show is limited, of course, to what I’ve seen (and I didn’t watch Breaking Bad), but in my opinion the best television of the year could be found on Broadchurch.

My reasons after the jump.  Make your own nominations in the comments.Broadchurch is an 8-episode mystery from BBC.  (They aren’t on Netflix yet, but you can watch them pay-per-view here, as well as elsewhere online.)   The story centers around the murder of a young boy in a small English coastal community.  That may sound ordinary and conventional, but the story is utterly immersive, drawing you into the lives of everyone affected and suspected.

The performances are mesmerizing.  (You think you know David Tennant from Doctor Who?  You think you have seen what Olivia Colman can do, seeing her play the Queen on Hyde Park on the Hudson?  Marvel at the professionalism of British acting as they play the opposite kind of character than what they are known for.)  And the supporting actors are just as good.  Also mesmerizing is the cinematography.  And the writing.

We really get inside not only the individuals caught up in this horrible crime, seeing what it does to the family and the detectives working to solve the case, but we also see what it does to the community, as people get suspicious and turn on each other.  We see what the press does to sensationalize crime and exploit its victims.

We also see the impact of the local church, where the entire village comes together to grieve and to find guidance, and its pastor, who–even though he has big problems of his own–counsels the bereaved, tries to stop the scapegoating, and points everyone to spiritual meaning.

The show as I’ve described it probably sounds depressing, but it isn’t, really.  It is entertaining, suspenseful, and exciting.  If you find the accents impenetrable, use closed captions.  You will not want the episode to end and you won’t be able to wait to see what happens next, so you will be tempted to indulge in binge watching.  Broadchurch, for all of its realism and intensity,  gives you the exhilaration that only comes from true works of art.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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