Southcliffe, a four part crime series, has just begun on Channel 4 and I made a spur of the moment decision to watch the first episode. I didn't know much about Southcliffe in advance, but the title did make me wonder if it might be a poor man's version of Broadchurch. Far from the truth, as things turned out. Even though the story is set in on the south coast of England, like Broadchurch, the mood and setting are very different.
We know from the first scene that a spree killer is at work. Shades of Michael Ryan in Hungerford and Derrick Bird in Cumbria, as well as all too many other deranged and dangerous people in various parts of the world. But then, in effect, we get a flashback and the rest of the episode shows the build-up to the terrifying events.
A soldier, played by Joe Dempsie, returns to Southcliffe, but it's far from clear that it's a town fit for heroes. One of the locals, known as 'The Commander' (Sean Harris) tries to befriend him, but it is clear from the start that the Commander is a deeply troubled soul. His home life is bleak, his personality disturbing, and his tendency to fantasise about a supposed past in the SAS a very bad sign indeed.
Written by Tony Grisoni, episode one made for raw and, I felt, compelling viewing. I've watched the first episodes of two highly acclaimed imported series, The Returned and Top of the Lake, in recent weeks, but Southcliffe made a greater impact on me than either of those other (no doubt more expensively produced) shows, for all their strengths.
The closing moments were very dark, and I'm expecting more of the same in episode two. But I'll certainly be watching. Comfort viewing it isn't, especially if you work in the tourist office at Faversham in Kent, which provides an intriguing but - so far - cheerless backdrop for the unfolding events. But Southcliffe has got off to an impressive start..