Fox’s “Gracepoint” is a near shot-for-shot remake of British drama “Broadchurch,” albeit served up in 10 episodes instead of eight. That’s not a bad idea, especially for the millions who haven’t seen the U.K. version, but it does make it harder to appraise this crime mystery strictly on its merits, even if the producers say they won’t rigidly follow the original, including (from this quadrant, anyway) its disappointing conclusion. “Broadchurch” rightly generated critical accolades, and its American twin is serious and spare. That said, this limited series doesn’t look like the answer to Fox’s Thursday woes.
David Tennant — adopting, for those familiar with him, a Yankee accent that takes some serious getting used to — reprises his role as the outsider detective investigating a young boy’s murder in a small beachside town, with “Breaking Bad’s” Anna Gunn as his partner, who is deeply rooted in the community.
The killing unlocks a web of secrets, all lurking just beneath the surface. One red herring after another arises, casting suspicion upon friends, neighbors and even family members.
“We don’t typically see crimes like this,” one of the cops says, surely an understatement given how overwhelmed the principals are by the flood of attention and anxiety, which includes an unprincipled reporter (Jessica Lucas) — and really, is there any other kind on TV? — hoping to exploit the case.
Virginia Kull and Michael Pena play the grieving parents, although dad can’t address his whereabouts at the time of the murder; and Nick Nolte is a grizzled neighbor (a part originally played by “The Strain’s” David Bradley) who had worked with local boys.
Building toward a conclusion, “Broadchurch” milked these relationships just enough, and resolved them in a way that British drama can. The U.S. version will follow a similar template, but with a follow-up already in the works overseas, the goal obviously would be to continue the franchise in success.
A broader problem is that what felt like a fresh take when “Broadchurch” premiered on BBC America has become somewhat played out lately, with several shows — among them ABC’s upcoming “Secrets & Lies” — using a small-town murder as the catalyst to a broader drama.
None of that is “Gracepoint’s” fault, but it does speak to one of the dangers of such adaptations: Not only do you lose part of the impact among those who watched the original, but you trail far enough behind it to allow the inevitable clones to creep into the equation. And unlike the old days, plenty of fine imports are readily available to feed the appetite of programming-hungry channels and streaming services. That makes eliminating the accents seem like not such a big deal, and the very idea of a U.S. version slightly superfluous.
Setting those not-inconsequential considerations aside, the series — adapted by Anya Epstein and Dan Futterman, with a premiere written by “Broadchurch” creator Chris Chibnall — is competently executed (and Fox is clearly proud of it, having made seven episodes available), with Gunn finding a reasonably juicy follow-up to the role of a lifetime. Those who get started, moreover, should want to stay and see how the mystery plays out.
Yet while it’s hard to pinpoint, “Gracepoint” can’t help but feel as if something significant has been lost in translation.