Is Marshwell A Real Town? The 'Paranoid' Setting Is Evocative Of Other British Crime Dramas
America seems to be in love with crime stories, but it may have inherited that from its mother country. In recent years, British television has proven itself to be at the forefront of small-town crime stories and one of its latest entries, Paranoid, just made its way to Netflix on Nov. 18. The series follows a group of detectives who begin investigating a gruesome attack at a playground and soon stumble upon something far larger than they could have ever expected. The root of the story takes place in a familiar-looking English suburb, but if you're curious to determine whether Marshwell is a real town, you may want to reconsider buying those plane tickets.
ITV's press release announcing Paranoid explicitly states that Marshwell is a fictional town that is supposed to be located in the real English county of Cheshire. The series follows in a long line of tradition amongst other British-crime series, in that it is less about the crime and more about how the death at the center of the mystery affects all of the members of the town. While most American network procedurals focus on a crime-per-episode, Paranoid and similar series approach a crime over the course of one or more seasons, allowing theme and tone to take precedent over plot. Marshwell itself may not be a real town, but it follows in the footsteps of other iconic, crime-ridden small English towns. Here are just a few towns, both real and fictional, that Marshwell owes a debt to.
Broadchurch is arguably one of the most influential crime dramas of the decade, its first season reigniting TV audiences' love of small-town whodunnits, all while showcase all-time great performances from David Tennant and Olivia Colman. The town of Broadchurch, however, is fairly atypical for a crime series. Instead of being shrouded in the woods or set amongst rural pastures, Broadchurch is a near-heavenly beachside town. The idyllic setting makes the death of a young boy at the start of the series all the more chilling.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more British town name than Southcliffe. In a Channel 4 press release, writer Tony Grisoli described the market town and its citizens as having "similarities to many actual people and places in Britain today. Invisible people, anonymous places." While the town may be small, the tragedy that unfolds casts a massive shadow.
As you can likely guess from the fact that every other show mentioned so far centers around a tragedy, Happy Valley is not a very happy place after all. However, unlike the other towns on this list, Happy Valley is actually a real place. According to The Mirror, it is based on the town of Hebden Ridge, part of the Calder Valley. Writer Sally Wainwright, who grew up in the area, told the Mirror that the police sometimes refer to the town as Happy Valley "because of the drug problem."
If you had a romanticized idea that England was somehow a calm place free of the terrors that plague other small towns around the world, shows like Paranoid serve to remind you that you are sorely mistaken. If you like being reminded of the darkness of the world (or the people that fight against said darkness) and can't get enough British crime-drama, then block out a weekend because all four of these series are available on Netflix! So relax, tune in, and let Paranoid make you consider moving to a city forever.
Images: Ben Blackall/Netflix (2); Giphy