'Gracepoint' trapped in shadow of predecessorBy Noah Cannon | 10/06/2014 11:01pm
David Lynch’s 1990 masterpiece “Twin Peaks” turned the identity of Laura Palmer’s killer into a national obsession, while AMC’s flawed but admirable “The Killing” earned a slew of Emmy nominations, including one for Mireille Enos’ revelatory lead performance. Each new iteration of this trope suffers from a barrage of comparisons to similar, earlier works.
Fox’s new whodunit limited series “Gracepoint” boldly attempts to forge new territory in this tired genre, with the added disadvantage of being a remake of “Broadchurch,” a massively popular and acclaimed UK series.
The show follows the investigation of the murder of Danny Solano, a young boy in Gracepoint, a tight-knit small town in northern California, as detective Ellie Miller (Anna Gunn) balances her professional duty and friendship with Danny’s family. She is joined in her investigation by new hire Emmett Carver, played by David Tennant, in the role he also played in the original series. As the police conduct their work, the townspeople of Gracepoint grow nervous as the town’s dark secrets, and suspicious residents appear.
“Gracepoint” is a handsomely shot series, but ultimately fails because it cannot move out of the looming shadow of “Broadchurch.” The newer show’s first episodes are nearly shot-for-shot remakes of the original, with minor changes to somewhat convincingly portray a Californian town instead of an English one.
In terms of subject matter, “Broadchurch” was far from groundbreaking television, but it was elevated immensely by the strength of its lead performances. Played by Olivia Colman in the original, Ellie Miller’s anguish, determination and prickly wit made for a rich, immediately believable protagonist. Gunn, a two-time Emmy winner for her work on “Breaking Bad,” makes a valiant effort to fill Colman’s shoes, but struggles to provide the same level of nuance to her character, often painting Ellie’s sadness with too broad a brush.
Tennant, electric in the original, is hampered in Gracepoint by his awkward, consonant-heavy American accent. His performance would be perfunctory if it didn’t feel like a light, uncanny-valley version of his stronger work in the first go round.
Academy Award nominees Jacki Weaver and Nick Nolte add clout to the show’s solid supporting cast, but unfortunately they cannot jolt enough life into the proceedings to justify the existence of a remake at all.
“Gracepoint” is well-intentioned and may very well find an audience, as murder mystery shows so often do in the U.S., but viewers would be much better served in finding a copy of “Broadchurch” and getting swept up in its secrets instead.