August 12, 2013 12:00 PM

Broadchurch

BBC America, Aug. 7, 10 p.m. ET/PT |

DRAMA

The best British import since Downton Abbey, this eight-part murder mystery set in a coastal town will not only hook you, it will harpoon you. The culprit at the end could be revealed to be a gang of sea anemones, and you’d just pull your face away from the screen (to which it has been glued) and say, “Yes, yes. Of course!” The mystery itself—about a boy found dead on the beach—isn’t innovative or terribly nuanced (neither is Downton). But it’s beautifully constructed, cleverly fitted with red herrings and capacious enough to house a community of suspects. The emotional payoff is sensational, and so is the acting – especially by David Tennant (Dr. Who) and newcomer Olivia Colman as the detectives handling the case. Alec Hardy (Tennant)has transferred into Broadchurch after bungling a high-profile case elsewhere. He’s caustic, wild-eyed and on the verge of some sort of collapse. He bangs about like a door losing its hinges in a storm. Ellie Miller (Colman) lives in Broadchurch—she knew the victim. She’d probably prefer to be like Marge Gunderson, Fargo’s unflappable police chief, but her faith in her town erodes, and her eyes grow wide with sorrow and shock. Until she can no longer close them.

The White Queen

Starz, Aug. 10, 8 p.m. ET/PT |

DRAMA

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. The wife of that head doesn’t get much sleep either, as demonstrated by this series about the women who fought to see their husbands and heirs occupy the British throne during the 15th-century Wars of the Roses. Things could go very wrong: Elizabeth (Rebecca Ferguson), married to Edward IV, endured one of the most notorious tragedies in monarchical history. Queen delivers the basic goods (intrigue, sex), but the only vivid character is Margaret Beaufort, mom of the future Henry VII. She’s played by Amanda Hale with startling neurotic fervor. While everyone else marches in the pageant of history, she builds her own float and mows them down.

Clear History

HBO, Aug. 10, 9 p.m. ET/PT |

COMEDY

History, starring and cowritten by Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David, is pretty, pretty bad. David plays a marketing executive who becomes a national joke after he misses out on the chance to be rich: He abandoned a project for an electric car that went on to make a kajillionaire of developer Jon Hamm. This launches a revenge farce that takes such perplexingly arbitrary turns—one of them involves Kate Hudson as Hamm’s significant other—that it finally sits down like a confused Labrador and refuses to budge. Still, there’s an odd exuberance to this mess that kept me laughing, and David, as always, goes off on the modern indignities (birthday e-mails instead of cards) that get under his skin. That’s not nothing.

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