One of my favorite things about the BBC is their dedication to producing original and diverse content. Yes, I understand that they are a national broadcaster and are pretty obligated to be diverse in their programming. In America, the last thing any broadcaster would produce is a series set on a remote, isolated island where the pretty basic crime story is spanned over the course of the whole series, focusing less on the drama of the crime and more the characters and the community.
The BBC took a chance on Shetland, and it paid off. Shetland, set on the Scottish archipelago, follows Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez as he solves some unexpected crimes in the vastly underpopulated and quite islands. The three series of Shetland, based loosely on Ann Cleeve's crime novels, takes an uncharacteristic approach to the classic crime genre. The show rejects the traditional storytelling method of having a new crime every episode, and, instead, opts for spanning one crime over two episodes, or, in the case of series 3, 6 episodes. I found this style interesting, but kind of hard to grasp at first. Because the crimes are, in the large scheme of things, pretty basic, the show has a lot of room for extra material, which means the pacing of the show is quite slow. But it also means that there is a lot of room for more character development, and room for the screenwriters to allow the audience to care for the community on these small islands. I grew to love the slow pace and suspense of the Shetland series, although I did have a hard time adapting at first. I must say, series 3 was the defining series for me. The overarching story was complex, each episode was suspenseful, and the cast was on top form. After series 3, I am excited to see what comes next for D.I. Perez.
But what I love most about Shetland is that it's unique. Yes, it is just another crime drama, but it has something special about it that really brings it life. For me, the most prominent thing about Shetland is it's setting. It was a risk for the BBC to green light a show set literally in the middle of nowhere-- would anyone watch it-- but, for me, that is what gives the show it's charm. With programs like Shetland, Hinterland, and The Fall, the BBC is showing that there is more to the United Kingdom than just London and England. And it's also giving work to British actors that aren't English and posh, which I will always support. But besides all that, it's just bloody good telly.
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