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'Broadchurch' TV review: Devastating mystery drama

BBC America's latest import, the crime drama "Broadchurch," caused such a stir in Britain earlier this year that bookies were making odds on who the killer was. Its success even inspired Fox to plan an American version.

The eight-part series earns the hubbub. Despite some flaws, "Broadchurch" (9 p.m. Aug. 7, BBC America; 3 stars out of 4) is beautifully filmed, sharply directed and intensely acted.

The whodunnit opens with the discovery of 11-year-old Danny Latimer's body at the bottom of beachfront cliffs in Broadchurch. But creator Chris Chibnall, taking cues from "The Killing" and other Scandinavian dramas, focuses on the effects of murder on Danny's family and community.

And it's devastating. The grief is so palpable it can be difficult to watch at times.

Over the course of the investigation by detectives Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) and the subsequent media storm surrounding the case (the series blasts the British press in a timely subplot), the cozy seaside town where everyone knows each other is torn apart by the secrets revealed, the lies exposed and dark pasts uncovered.

The narrative creates suspicions about one character after another. But I doubt the trail of red herrings will frustrate many viewers because characters' stories are that compelling.

Danny's death threatens to tear apart the marriage of his grieving parents. Beth Latimer (Jodie Whittaker) can't focus on anything but his murder and her failure to protect him. Mark Latimer (Andrew Buchan) lies to his wife and the police, which lead them to suspect him.

Other suspects include Jack Marshall (David Bradley), an elderly single man who owns the newsstand where Danny worked as a paper delivery boy. Gruff loner Susan Wright (Pauline Quirke) manages a rental cabin not far from where Danny's body was found. Local vicar Paul Coates (Arthur Darvill) taught computer skills to Danny and other local boys.

The entire cast give tremendous performances, but Tennant and especially Colman really knock it out of the park.

Tennant sheds the charm he displayed as the Tenth Doctor in "Doctor Who" to create Hardy, a rude, unlikeable detective seeking redemption. Colman gives a fascinating portrayal of a wife, mother and very good cop who must toss aside friendships to investigate her neighbors.

Watching her character discover an inner strength she didn't know was there will help you overlook the show's strained and unsatisfying payoff.

Hey, I warned you the series wasn't perfect. But finding out who did it is less interesting than everything that happens along the way.

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Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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