Caution: This review contains spoilers.
In my previous reviews of “Gracepoint,” I made sure to emphasize that I had not yet seen the ITV original drama, “Broadchurch.” Still, I was puzzled why FOX would pursue a remake with nearly the same plot and even the same lead actor (David Tennant). Both shows follow the investigation of a young boy’s murder in a sleepy coastal town. I finally had the opportunity to stream the first season “Broadchurch” on Netflix and I must say, I’m relieved that I feel the same way about “Gracepoint,” which peaked briefly (and far too late) with Tom Miller’s disappearance. There are many reasons as to why “Gracepoint” flopped and “Broadchurch” gets another season. Let’s go through a few comparisons:
There were two extra episodes included with the FOX production, with some elaboration on scenes. There’s the extra chunk where Tom Miller gets lost in the woods, which was a welcome relief in pacing from the monotony that so characterized the series. As most scenes were changed only slightly, the changes turned out to be of little consequence and even broke the rhythm with the less than stellar acting. FOX dropped the ball in the opportunity to put a truly new spin on the events. Sometimes being economical on the scenes is perfectly fine. Leave the elaboration to the fans and their imagination. Camera work appears sloppier. It’s a puzzling concept actually, when the same objects are included in the shots.
Both dramas take place in coastal towns and there’s an effort to frame the shots of the landscape similarly. However, perhaps it was just me, but the cliffs in Dorset looked far more imposing and ominous than the ones in Vancouver Island. It’s not considered nitpicking to question the atmosphere left by the cliffs, because the series just as much about the location as it is about the murder investigation and townsfolk. Otherwise, why else include the sweeping shots of the cliffs and hills? Yes, “Gracepoint” takes place in California, but it was filmed further north on the Canadian coast. It’s a point that may have generated confusion when the Solanos are playing five-pin bowling, a game that is not played in the U.S. One may also argue about the names of the towns as well but perhaps that’s taking semantics a bit too far.
As talented as Anna Gunn (“Breaking Bad”), her version of Ellie Miller never achieves the same level (emphasis on level here and not the type) of chemistry that Olivia Colman’s reaches with David Tennant. It often felt like she was just going through the motions with her lines and finding a few fleeting moments where she could connect with Tennant. Colman’s Ellie is still combative with Tennant’s Hardy, but the sensitive side never feels neither overdone nor forced. It’s like that across the board with the other actors as well, comprising a very lackluster cast on these shores.
Overall, the acting is just much better in “Broadchurch,” plain and simple. You’d think having a Hollywood name like Nick Nolte would bolster a project; Nolte gave a good performance actually, but it’s not quite as strong as David Bradley’s portrayal of the beleaguered Jack Marshall. Virginia Kull’s performance as a grieving mother didn’t resonate until the eighth episode, which was much too late to save “Gracepoint” (not to mention unacceptable). The difference between Arthur Darvill and Kevin Rankin as Paul Coates is also striking; Rankin’s devoutness seems to cast religion and the church in an almost silly or even creepy light.
And “Broadchurch Continues
I discussed all of these issues in some form or another in previous posts. Part of FOX’s problems probably stems from the very fact that American and British television are different, even with respect to limited series runs in the US. Some shows are easy to carry over the ocean while others are more suited to their original shores. “Gracepoint” fans (for the ones who are out there), don’t lament too much if you’re upset about the cancellation by FOX. You can check out “Broadchurch” on Netflix for the first season. Then tune in for the season 2 premiere in March 2015 on BBC America. Our friends in the UK get a bit of a head start with the premiere scheduled for January 5th on ITV.
Perhaps we did get some gems out of “Gracepoint,” such as this one that “Doctor Who” fans were able to enjoy from writer and producer Chris Chibnall: