'Gracepoint': TV Review

Anna Gunn and David Tennant
Not the same grace, no real point

A young boy is killed in a seaside town and everybody becomes a suspect in Fox's remake of "Broadchurch"

Normally the reaction one hears when critics say that there's really no need for an American remake of the eight-episode British gem Broadchurch is that only critics watched it and thus the general public might as well watch the Fox version, called Gracepoint, which starts tonight.

But that doesn't make a lot of sense. For starters, the original Broadchurch is a brilliant, taut and emotionally devastating portrayal of a child murder in a remote seaside town and the American remake is flat-out inferior, despite maintaining most of the same plot until the seventh (of 10) episodes.

Why would you not seek out the original, which has completed its first-season run to widespread critical acclaim, instead of risking the American version, which tacks on another couple of episodes to muck it up?

Why tamper with success?

That notion is made evermore murky by the fact that the original is an English-language production. It's not like they were speaking Farsi on Broadchurch. Despite a few accent quirks, there's nothing that should stop anyone who wants to watch from doing so. It's out there. It's in English. And it's better.

If you decide to sample Gracepoint, you'll find that David Tennant is at the helm again (he was the lead in the original), only this time he doesn't have an accent, which makes watching him — for anyone familiar with his work — oddly distracting. He plays the lead detective Emmett Carver in a murder case that has rocked the small seaside town of Gracepoint, where everybody knows their neighbors and crime is rare.

When the town wakes up to find that the body of young Danny Solano (Nikolas Filipovic) has been found on the beach, the whodunit begins.

Anna Gunn plays Ellie Miller, who was supposed to get the job just given to Carver, so there's a natural resentment. Also, Carver is an outsider and Miller is a local who knows the town and the people especially well — but the tragedy highlights just how close she is.

She sees the magnitude of the death immediately, as the boy's father, Mark (Michael Pena), and mother, Beth (Virginia Kull), are friends with Miller and her husband, Joe (Josh Hamilton), plus their son Tom (Jack Irvine) was best friends with Danny.

Together Carver and Miller run through a series of people who could have done it — a game of shadows and red herrings that the original Broadchurch used to particularly haunting effect.

The intrigue of the original was filled with subtle elements in the acting, which go quickly astray for at least two of the suspects in Gracepoint, played by Nick Nolte and Jacki Weaver (who make their American versions far too broad and over the top).

In many ways Broadchurch, created and written by Chris Chibnall, played with the conventions of the crime genre, making everybody look guilty (but the red herrings had merit, which was the impressive part of the writing) until viewers had no real clue where it was going. But what anchored Broadchurch was its harrowing sense of loss, how it played out with the parents and changed the small coastal town where a number of people had come to start new lives.

Much of that is either missing or lost in translation (Chibnall still gets writing credits for Gracepoint, and original director James Strong directs several episodes of the new version, including the pilot). Part of this could be that the setting doesn't translate and part of it is certainly that the acting doesn't hold up to the original. Whatever magic that was created in the original seems lost or grasped at unsuccessfully.

Gracepoint is also not a "shot for shot" remake — it's actually quite different. The plot, until it diverges in episode seven, is largely the same, except that Broadchurch was more cinematic and artful.

There will be a different killer in Gracepoint, but it could be that the real crime was the idea to redo it in the first place. Seek out Broadchurch (Amazon, DVD, etc.) instead and you'll have a vastly more fulfilling viewing experience.

Email: Tim.Goodman@THR.com

Twitter: @BastardMachine

 

comments powered by Disqus