The idea of recreating a successful British television series for an American audience is hardly a new concept. Indeed, it happens far more often than one might think and enough of these adaptations are successful for it to be tried again and again, despite a number of rather infamous flops. For every successfully Americanized The Office there are ten nigh-unwatchable adaptations of British classics such as Coupling or Red Dwarf.
Hither comes Gracepoint – an adaptation of the critical-hit Broadchurch – to dominate the airwaves on the other side of The Pond under its gumshoed feet. Great care has been taken to recreate the feel of the original show, with Gracepoint retaining the same writer, producer and star as Broadchurch. The hope is that the series will retain the same energy and power, though the story has been relocated from Dorset to California. Additionally, the production team has already promised a different ending to the series in order to give Anglophiles who have seen the original series on BBC America a reason to tune in.
The show’s star, David Tennant, is already well-known to American audiences as the tenth incarnation of The Doctor from the science-fiction series Doctor Who, but fans shouldn’t expect any of that role’s quirky shenanigans in this series. Tennant is virtually unrecognizable here with his hair slicked down and a permanent level of scruffiness about his face that defies being called a beard as that word implies some attempt at upkeep.
Gracepoint centers upon the mysterious death of a 12-year-old boy in a small coastal town. The investigation is taken over by two police detectives – the newly hired Emmett Carver (David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Anna Gunn), a local whose son is best friends with the dead boy. Tempers flare immediately between the two detectives, with Carver feeling that Miller is far too close to the case to investigate it impartially and Miller resenting Carver for being hired into a senior position that had been promised to her. Still, the two must work together despite their differences when it becomes clear that the boy’s death was no accident.
This first episode does little beyond establishing the characters of our lead detectives and introducing some of the likely suspects. There is a website – suspecteveryone.com – where viewers can vote upon who they think is the guilty party. Not surprisingly, the most popular suspects as of this writing are the ones who had the most screen time in the first episode.
It is too early to begin to guess how the mystery will unwind, of course, but there are enough hints dropped here to suggest a number of possibilities. There are a number of other mysteries as well, the most compelling of which involves Detective Carver’s past and the mention of an incident for which he was exonerated.
Taken on its own merits, Gracepoint is enjoyable enough as a police procedural to please fans of the genre. It remains to be seen how this story will play out or if it can equal the high standards set by Broadchurch. Yet, the performances by Tennant and Gunn are strong and enough of a foundation has been laid to build something interesting.