We’ve read several reviews of this show from several reviewers who we admire greatly telling us that we should let this show stand on its own and not compare it to Broadchurch, the original version of the story, which aired in Great Britain with a (mostly) different cast. With all due respect to those critics, we think that suggestion is rather quaint and impossible to adhere to.
Broadchurch was by no means a perfect show. It was a fairly standard take on the “A child is murdered in a small town full of secrets” tale, which has been so done by now that it’s practically a genre of its own. There was nothing groundbreaking about the script or the concept – and in fact, the ending was both mediocre and a little annoying. But it had two things going for it: A uniformly excellent cast, with at least one performance that we’d consider one of the best we’ve ever seen on television (Olivia Colman who quite literally took our breath away in one scene – and if you saw it, you know which one), and a moody and beautiful setting on the Dorset coast of England. Gracepoint is Broadchurch with the two best aspects removed from it, making it an even more standard take on the average mystery show.
We honestly couldn’t tell you whether or not you should watch this if you haven’t seen Broadchurch. Nothing about last night’s episode convinced us that this was going to be as moody or as well acted as the original version. And since Broadchurch’s greatest failing as a mystery show was that it relied way too much on red herrings and giving every single character some sort of deep, dark secret, we don’t have a lot of faith that this version is going to do any better on that front. Especially since the American version has two more episodes than the British version did, which implies there’s going to be even more red herrings than the original.
But okay. Fine. Let’s try and assess it on its own. It was a decent hour of television and efficiently set up everything, giving us a long look at the town of Gracepoint and introducing us to most of the major characters. It’s beautifully shot and everything looks gorgeous. Unfortunately, none of the performances really stood out to us. Anna Gunn seems to be struggling a little bit with the role, but that could improve over time. David Tennant’s performance comes across as something of a cliche right now; the gruff, impatient, rude detective. Much has been made of his American accent, but we think he did a decent job except for one or two parts. It’s not the accent people are responding negatively to; it’s the style of speaking, which is way too clipped and precise to be entirely believable. Here you have someone who looks like a drunk who just rolled out of an alleyway, speaking with the precise diction of a RADA graduate.
There was one moment when we actually groaned out loud because the acting seemed so off: the scene where the Solano family finds out that Danny is the body on the beach. It was just so awkwardly shot and acted. Gentle weeping and staring off into space. On the other hand, Beth running down to the beach, getting more and more frantic with each step, is still a highly affecting, emotionally draining sequence and Virginia Kull fills us with some hope that she can elevate things with her performance.
It was a shot-for-shot, line-by-line remake of Broadchurch’s first episode, which implies to us that we’re going to see plenty more of that over the season. The creators have let it be known that they changed the ending and that some time past the midpoint of the season, the story starts diverging from the original. We’re going to stay tuned to see that, but it’s really only out of a sense of curiosity. If this show didn’t have the Broadchurch DNA in its makeup, we don’t know that we’d be interested in continuing to watch. We know we’re not likely to write any more reviews until the story starts diverging, because no one wants to read “This was better in the original” over and over again, week after week. We’ll give it a shot to see if the show can make a case for itself, but so far, it’s not coming across like anything we need to be watching.
[Picture Credit: FOX Television]