It may be wildly out of line considering she’s won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA and now an Oscar (!!!) but I don’t think it’s greedy to want Olivia Colman to take home every award possible for her performance in The Favourite.
Because listen: I believe Olivia Colman is so good at acting it should be considered witchcraft. If this were 17th century Salem I’d be advocating to drown her in the local pond because she’s just that good. Not only that, but The Favourite was a beautiful retreat from stuffy historical biopics while adding to the coveted and criminally underfed genre, “movies about gay people where the story isn’t all about them being gay”.
But you’ve seen The Favourite 12 times already and you still have a Colman-sized itch to scratch, I get it! Luckily for you Colman is talented and prolific, and British, and basically a boy racer, and I’ve seen a lot of the TV work she’s done because I’m obsessed with how good she is at her job.
Extra luckily, after I watched the latest season of Doctor Who I had the same itch about Jodie Whittaker and immediately went searching for other things I could hear her bonkers accent in. And what were the odds that there was a show they were both in, together? High, actually. The UK has a population of about nine people and at least four of them in any one show have probably played an incarnation of the Doctor.
This particular show is called Broadchurch and it’s very sad. You should watch it.
Before the idea of ever watching Broadchurch had birthed itself in my mind, I had heard reverent whispers about the kinds of things Olivia Colman could do with her face. I’m not strictly a big fan of the “British people doing crimes” setup, but for aforementioned reasons (bonkers accent), I made an exception. I watched about, I don’t know, five minutes of the show and I was strapped in 100%.
Now I don’t want to be dramatic here, but I feel it’s important to say that I would die on a battlefield for Ellie Miller.
There’s a scene in the third episode of Broadchurch where she has to lead a briefing, something she’s never done before, and Colman’s performance of nerves and defiance at the quiver in her own voice is so sensational I might have cried.
Her character is probably the most empathetic rendering of a real human person I’ve ever seen on TV. People throw the word “realistic” around a lot, but Ellie Miller embodies that for me because, much like real human people, she’s allowed to slide around on a messy spectrum of humanity and contradictions.
She’s a small town cop who is good at her job for a small town cop, but maybe not so much when it comes to a big-time murder investigation where she has to lead briefings and investigate her friends. She’s bossy and allowed her anger at the unfolding events and bureaucracy but she still finds herself calling David Tennant’s character “sir” even though she hates it. It’s just because he’s technically her superior, which she also hates!
It’s a delight to see Miller embodying the reality that women don’t always have to be the best at something to still be likable and strong. They don’t always need superpowers. Sometimes they can be decent at the work they’re used to doing, but their edges crumble when things get more gruesome and complex. I love that! And I love that Olivia Colman is so good at showing those things in her performance without ever spelling them out.
I will not spoil the twists of the show for you, but I will warn that it’s a hard watch at times. The plot of the first and second seasons follow the murder of a local boy, so grief is a real focal point and it can hit home. It does a lot of things so, so well though – the grief being one of them – and I’ll recommend it to literally anyone who makes the mistake of talking to me.
And if, like me, you inhale 24 episodes of Broadchurch like they’re no more than a couple of quick YouTube videos on your lunch break, I also suggest listening to David Tennant’s new podcast. The first episode is all Olivia Colman, and it’ll make you feel better about not seeing them be curmudgeonly mates on the telly anymore. I have no strong feelings about Tennant either way, but as an “interviewer” he’s very personable, and remarkably he actually shuts his mouth to listen to what his guest has to say. He doesn’t centre himself or try to derail or speak over anyone, can you imagine?
Fleabag is the show about absolutely wild, beastly women that you didn’t know you needed. I covet the way they expose themselves and I hope one day I’m able to write a character who is irredeemably awful and still incredibly, heartachingly lovable.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a tall genius and if you haven’t watched any of her work, you’re missing out. She’s maybe now best known for bringing Killing Eve into the world, but her earlier shows have just as much of that voice in them, so they aren’t the stylistic departure they might look like at first glance. Fleabag is definitely the best of them.
Bear with me while I tell you that Fleabag is told confessional-style. When I first heard that I balked because it’s not my thing; characters speaking to the camera as though acknowledging I’m there watching with all eight of my chins is far too confronting for me. Totally ruins the voyeur quality of regular TV.
But Fleabag, who is played by Waller-Bridge, has the kind of wry humour and conspiratorial smile that makes you feel like you’re in on a special joke just for the two of you. The way she breaks the fourth wall for once actually enhances the story rather than just being gimmicky.
But the best part of the show is that Olivia Colman plays a very vivid and calculated nightmare masquerading as a sweetheart. It’s a role that on the surface makes no sense for her because she’s never come across as anything but delightful. However it turns out she’s pitch-perfect at delivering lines that sound innocuous but are completely monstrous underneath.
So much so that at one point, when Fleabag tries to call her hair scarf a hat, their exchange is so freezing cold it gave me chills. Colman is fucking heroic in her awfulness; just an absolute snake, and I am, as the youths say, Here For That.
Fleabag doesn’t care if you don’t like the behaviour of its women. It doesn’t shy away from showing the seedier parts of its titular character’s personality, unraveling her flaws so gradually that the culminating blow at the end of season one feels catastrophic.
Rev. was a new show to me but I pushed play on the pilot in about three seconds after reading the description on Lightbox and was not disappointed. If you’ve ever wanted to see Olivia Colman in a purple wig you’ve come to the right show.
Rev. is a pretty typical small-scale British comedy. It focuses on the vicar of an inner city London parish, and his parishioners. I’m a big fan of oddball ensembles and this show is truly all oddballs. There’s not one normie in the bunch, except Olivia Colman. She’s the vicar’s wife and her presence is what I would call “cosy”. You know how some people are very domestic and they strike you as someone who loves to just potter about their house all day? That’s her character.
I regularly daydream about how it would be just lovely to sit and have a cuppa with Olivia Colman in her charming British house, so watching Rev. has given me at least a little insight into what that might be like. I’m sure she’d hate it but I would have the best day of my life.
While it’s a little dated at this point (the first season aired in 2010), most of it holds up. There aren’t any gay jokes that make me particular uncomfortable, and it doesn’t get preachy. It’s an interesting take on the priest character too – Adam’s not really a doofus or a joke, but we see him as very humanised. He drinks, sometimes too much, and smokes, and makes bad decisions at the same time as he’s clearly a figure plenty of people in the community look up to.
Anyway, I’m not going to tell you what to do with your time; you can watch The Favourite 12 more times if you really want to, but if you want a break from scheming historical lesbians there are a lot more Colman gems out there to get stuck into.
(Obviously, Olivia Colman is in all nine season of the British comedy series Peep Show too. I haven’t seen it, but she’s definitely in it and almost certainly great in it.)
The Spinoff Daily gets you all the days' best reading in one handy package, fresh to your inbox Monday-Friday at 5pm.