Watching Fox’s newest drama series Gracepoint (premiering Thursday night), I experienced a bit of cognitive dissonance. A fan of BBC America’s (by way of ITV in the U.K.) Broadchurch (now preparing for its second season), I was intrigued by the idea of re-hatching the excellent British series for American audiences, especially since David Tennant stars in both shows. But it’s very difficult to watch Gracepoint without the British series firmly in my memory banks, so it’s even more difficult to be objective.
It’s an interesting experiment: remaking a currently running English-language, albeit British series, and then casting the star of the British series as the lead in the re-make. It’s been done successfully before (The Office), but I think the similarities between Gracepoint and the original are extraordinarily close, even as the two series diverge (slightly) after the third or fourth episode. After all, the American The Office did feature any of the original’s stars” Ricky Gervais, Martin Freeman, or Mackenzie Crook! And the workings and culture of American and British office life are in themselves pretty distinct.
I have to say I was disappointed that the new series has so closely adheres to the British version: names, plot lines, relationships between the characters. Gracepoint would have been so much better had it gone in a different direction. The similarities (a near-replication) between Gracepoint and Broadchurch make little difference to the creators, and they believe they will make little difference to the viewing public. In a interview with Variety, Executive Producer Caroline Bernstein noted that ” the viewing audience for ‘Broadchurch’ represents really, truly less than one percent of the American television viewing population. We’re not particularly worried about the overlap.”
If you’ve not seen Broadchurch, you will find Gracepoint a thrilling ride of a mystery as Tennant’s character Emmet Carver, along with his police partner Ellie Miller (Anna Gunn), try to identify and then catch the killer of a young boy, found dead on a beach below a high cliff. Everyone in the small Northern California seaside town is a potential subject: from the boy’s father to the local nature club sponsor (a craggy old man played beautifully by Nick Nolte). No one is beyond suspicion.
I’ve seen the Gracepoint’s first seven episodes (there are 10 set to air), and I wonder if the Fox series come to the same resolution as Broadchurch had. I hope not, if only to make the Gracepoint journey worth the while for Broadchurch fans. Gracepoint is well acted, well-written, and beautifully produced. The physical beauty of the location with its cliffs and crashing waves becomes more than just a bit of scenery. And the story, even if it’s strikingly similar to the original, is interesting and will have you guessing “who done it?” all the way through (while hoping that it’s not the same guy guilty in Broadchurch!)
David Tennant (whose character is one of the few characters with a different name in the American adaptation–his character in Broadchurch was Alec Hardy) plays Emmet Carver an intense, clearly troubled police detective. He has a past and a not a few secrets of his own. New to town, and the only one who can really investigate the boy’s death objectively (it’s a very small town, and everyone knows everyone–or at least think they do!), he is partnered with detective Ellie Miller (Gunn). Ellie’s son was the murdered boy’s best friend, and Ellie is close with the boy’s mother. Tennant plays Emmet with the same intensity he portrayed the same character in the British version, although it’s slightly jarring to hear him speak with an American accent.
There is a constant tension between Emmet and Ellie. She sees out-of-towner Emmet as an interloper, taking the job promised to her. But over the course of the series their relationship, while remaining rocky becomes one of mutual respect as they draw closer to identifying the killer. At the same time, long-standing relationships strain at the seams and (in some cases) break entirely in the sleepy little town.
Gracepoint is a worthwhile watch. And if you’re a fan of Broadchurch, you might even enjoy watching the new series just to spot the differences.
Gracepoint airs Thursday nights on Fox.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00HGE90Z4,B00EE3KMOI,B00NP6IMQU]