Caution: This review contains spoilers on the premiere of “Gracepoint.”
Not even fifteen minutes into the first episode of “Gracepoint,” I found myself wondering why FOX would create a remake of “Broadchurch.” Other publications like the Washington Post have debated the point ever since the announcement came out. However, others like NPR argue that the viewing experience would probably be more enjoyable for those who are new to the series and have not yet seen the U.K. counterpart. I have not seen “Broadchurch,” yet I have heard of the popularity of the show overseas, where a second season (or series) is expected to be released in the coming year.
Young Danny Solano (Nikolas Filipovic) is found dead on a beach in Gracepoint, a coastal town in California. The case is being handled by Detectives Ellie Miller (Anna Gunn) and Emmett Carver (David Tennant), who start their working relationship in a tense way. Ellie was promised a promotion, but Chief Morgan (Tom Butler) gave the post to Carver. It’s certainly not the best news to receive on your first day back from vacation! Though experienced, it’s later mentioned that Carver was fully exonerated for a problem that will probably come to light later. He also seems to spend a lot of time being gruff and brooding, a demeanor that doesn’t sit well with the locals.
Chloe (Madalyn Horcher), Danny’s older sister, visits the beach to lay down a stuffed animal, which arouses the curiosity of Owen (Kevin Zegers), a reporter for Gracepoint Journal. He posts his discovery in a tweet, causing more trouble for Ellie. Much of the episode is devoted to uncovering a little more about Danny’s activity from that morning and the previous night, of which there is little to reveal so far. Forensics indicate that Danny did not jump and was in fact murdered. Video footage also shows him skateboarding into town late at night. Only viewers know that Tom Miller (Jack Irvine), Ellie’s son, might be a good source of information, because he deleted a lot of messages from both his cell phone and computer.
It may come as a surprise for some viewers to see David Tennant without a British or Scottish accent, especially those who have seen him in “Doctor Who.” However, it’s a little hard to place the American accent. It actually distracted me a little, because it seemed like the accent took away some of the energy of his performance. It didn’t quite work in the same fashion that say, an American accent did for Hugh Laurie in “House, M.D.”
This potential difficulty also begs the question, why a remake with the same lead actor? Typically, an American remake of a U.K. show brings over the same plot (or opening scripts), but has an entirely new cast of American actors. One obvious example is “The Office.” In addition, it’s not like anyone is clamoring for an American remake of the hit period drama, “Downton Abbey.” Another problem is the rest of the cast on “Gracepoint.” Anna Gunn (“Breaking Bad”) seems miscast as Ellie Miller, exhibiting an awkward stance at times. It almost appears as though she’s making quite the effort to get into certain positions; such conscious positioning seems plausible if the shots in “Gracepoint” are framed to match those in “Broadchurch.” Nick Nolte pops up as a wildlife recorder and he may have more to offer as the season progresses. (Remember, I have not seen “Broadchurch.”) Cast issues aside, I wonder if the pace of the episode was too slow (too many slow motion sequences), but I would prefer to wait and see if that changes in upcoming installments.
Much of the buzz from FOX revolves around changes that come later in the season. Time blocking will allow for two additional episodes. There will be a different conclusion for the first season. However, where exactly will the plot diverge? Would it feel similar to viewing alternate scenes (as an afterthought) on a Special Edition DVD for a series?
So far I’m not convinced that “Gracepoint” was a necessary endeavor. At the same time, I hope that FOX has something brilliant coming along in the season.
“Gracepoint” airs Thursday evenings on FOX at 9/8c.