Gracepoint would have been a much, much better show if it was set in Appalachia.
David Tennant, an uppity Yankee, arrives in small-town Gracepoint just in time to investigate the murder of Opie Taylor. Assisted by a shocked local sheriff, he must investigate all the inhabitants of this seemingly idyllic town.
I kid. But only a little.
In remaking the amazing British show Broadchurch, it's inevitable that some themes would cross over. The idea of a small town turning on itself. The theme of Christianity and community. There would be no better place to transport this conflict than a small Appalachian town - that symbol of American rural life - complete with a heavy dose of Flannery O'Connor.
But alas, it is not to be. Instead we're in a California sea-side town where Ellie Miller (Anna Gunn) must assist outsider Emmett Carver (David Tennant) to investigate the murder of local boy, Danny Solano. The story doesn't transport effortlessly, and it isn't helped by the fact that the first episode is a shot-by-shot recreation of Broadchurch. Gone is much of the regional charm (Broadchurch was set in Dorset) that would have been retained if we had gone to the South.
However, while the blatant copying is jarring and disappointing, there are a few good things about this treatment. For one thing, many more people will become familiar with the story, which was a good one then, and I hope will remain so (copying is a lazy but solid method of turning out quality). It raises all sorts of interesting questions about loving our neighbors. This means I can finally talk to everyone about it, instead of just my Anglophile friends, and that's definitely a positive.
Even though I have seen Broadchurch three times, I still found myself drawn into the story. Virginia Kull is an adequate replacement for Jodie Whittaker, and provides the emotional center for the episode. Nick Nolte manages to get in a few laughs, and brings a little bit of the small-town orneriness to the mix.
Overall, while borrowing almost all of its style from the original, this doesn't make it a bad show. Haven't seen Broadchurch? Watch Gracepoint because it's free right now - and because it's worth watching, if only because it cheats by borrowing. I'm mainly watching because I want to talk to people about it. That. Means. You.
#Gracepoint episode 1 is currently available free on iTunes in the US & Canada. The ep’s also free online at Fox and Hulu.You've seen Broadchurch? Well, stick with the good stuff. You won't have to wait long for more.
— Chris Chibnall (@ChrisChibnall) October 4, 2014
My review of episode 2.
Want something good to watch? Check out my full list of good detective shows.