The Bay: More missing kids in a seaside town - we’re back in Broadchurch territory

Most of us accepted that Broadchurch, the touch-and-go but gripping ITV drama about grief and crime in a small coastal town, would never return after its three-series run came to an end in 2017.

Anyone holding on to hopes of a resurrection may have finally accepted this inevitable truth when Olivia Colman won an Oscar and, therefore, would most likely have bigger fish to fry for the foreseeable future.

But worry not: there are plenty of other seasides with secrets. The latest, The Bay, doesn’t hook you in quite as effectively.

Morven Christie is detective Lisa Armstrong — no association with the ex-wife of ITV stalwart Ant McPartlin, of course — who is drafted in as a family liaison officer when teenage twins Dylan and Holly don’t come home from their youth club one night.

Lead: Morvan Christie as Lisa Armstrong (ITV)
Lead: Morvan Christie as Lisa Armstrong (ITV)

She goes through the motions, asking the distraught mother the usual questions before the spanner drops in the works: she and this family are linked in a way that could complicate the case and her career. The scene in which this realisation dawns provides a genuine, gut-punching surprise.

As the drama proceeds, though, it’s pretty much a paint-by-numbers hunt. The stepdad with a temper. The gruff inspector overseeing Lisa’s case. The keen newbie, desperate to learn the ropes. Lisa’s own, wayward teen who doesn’t understand why her mother puts work before family: it’s all vaguely predictable, though inoffensive.

Something to hide: Morven Christie as detective Lisa Armstrong and Lindsey Coulson as her mother Penny (ITV)
Something to hide: Morven Christie as detective Lisa Armstrong and Lindsey Coulson as her mother Penny (ITV)

Luckily, Christie is excellent as Lisa. She is wholly convincing in capturing the facets of character: the struggling mum, the driven police officer and the real woman who exists somewhere between the two, someone trying to do her duty while maintaining a connection to the person she is.

Less convincing, however, is some of the dialogue. I can just about believe that Lisa might meet a man at a Morecambe Bay bar and use the slightly antiquated phrase: “Who are you when you’re at home?” but the portrayal of the young characters is harder to take. I’m not sure teenagers still really say: “That is a sick burn”, and I doubt they still listen to Azealia Banks. Minor quibbles, though, I grant you.

What is less forgivable is what seems, so far, a gross underuse of two fine actresses: Tracie Bennett and Lindsey Coulson. Bennett, a Coronation Street alumna with acclaimed theatre roles under her belt, chews the scenery as the embittered grandmother of the lost twins and is immediately rude to the people who have arrived to try and find them.

As Lisa’s mother Penny, Coulson — best known for playing Carol in EastEnders — has little more to do than tell her grandkids that dinner is ready.

Viewers of shows such as Broadchurch will know their moments are surely coming but who wants to wait? The Bay shows promise. You switch off from this first episode with a real interest in where this mystery is going, and there is a genuine sense of tension as we await the inevitable moment when, despite her attempts at a cover-up, Lisa’s connection to the family is unearthed (one does wonder, though, that it wouldn’t have been a particularly big deal if she had addressed it immediately.) All in all, a decent drama worth getting embroiled in — but it doesn’t grip like it could.