Heads Up: Channel 4 drama Southcliffe

Just make sure you don't mention 'Broadchurch'

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

What are we talking about? A new four-part Channel 4 drama; after a rash of shootings on a single day in a market town, a journalist finds himself returning to report on the dark secrets lurking in his home town.

Elevator pitch Small-town crime drama is a broad church: surely there's room for another?

Prime movers The script is by Toni Grisoni (Red Riding, The Unloved); it's directed by Sean Durkin, in his British TV debut – he had a critical hit with the film Martha Marcy May Marlene.

The stars Plenty of familiar British TV faces: Rory Kinnear, currently impressing in Othello at the National, plays the homecoming hack, while Sean Harris (The Borgias; Prometheus) is menacing as the lone gunman. And around town you'll spot everyone from Shirley Henderson (Anna Karenina; Harry Potter) to Kaya Scodelario (Wuthering Heights; Skins), Eddie Marsan (Tyrannosaur; Sherlock Holmes) to Joe Dempsie (Game of Thrones; Skins).

The early buzz The Mirror went straight for a real-life-tragedy angle: "A TV drama about a killing rampage will revive horrific memories for the families of the 12 people gunned down by Derrick Bird ... Twisted Bird, 52, killed some victims with a .22 rifle or called them over to his Citroën Piscasso and blasted them in the face with a shotgun as he drove around Whitehaven … Families affected by his killings have not been contacted about the drama." Website Den of Geek were more positive: "It's another feel-bad drama, yes, but one with a provenance that promises neither to exploit nor to sensationalise the real-life events by which it was inspired. If anyone can convincingly tell a story about loss and grief, then this ensemble… certainly has the stuff to do it."

Insider knowledge It's set in a fictional town, but Southcliffe caused genuine alarm during filming in Faversham: local residents thought the crime scene was real.

It's great that … there's such a wealth of intelligent, subtle talents involved in what could be a sentimental or gratuitous show.

It's a shame that … Southcliffe will, inevitably, be compared to ITV's Broadchurch, with its 'small community rocked by violence' themes. And it's a hard act to follow.

Hit potential Perhaps a little gloomy for the current summery mood, but quality will hopefully shine through.

The details Southcliffe is on Channel 4 in early August.