Alibi V.23 No.41 • Oct 9-15, 2014 

Idiot Box

Crime of Opportunity

“Gracepoint” on FOX

Remakes of foreign TV shows are nothing new for American TV. But FOX is using the term “remake” awfully loosely with its adaptation of the British crime series “Broadchurch.” Aside from moving the setting and changing the title to “Gracepoint,” not a lot of effort has been put into differentiating this new version. In fact, the show’s original star (former “Doctor Who” David Tennant) reprises his role, mouthing the same lines with an adopted American accent. If you’ve never seen “Broadchurch,” it’s no big deal, I guess. But if you watched the original on BBC America, there’s nothing new for you to see here. Move along.

The Pacific Northwest has long been TV shorthand for gloomy and dramatic—a fact exploited by crime shows from “Twin Peaks” to “The Killing.” “Gracepoint” takes full advantage of the cliché, setting itself in the titular, picturesque-but-rainy Northern California town. The action kicks off when the dead body of 12-year-old schoolboy Danny Solano is found on the beach. This attracts the attention of Ellie Miller (Anna Gunn, hot off her Emmy win for “Breaking Bad”), a dedicated wife, mother and police detective. Ellie has just been passed over for a major promotion in favor of some out-of-town detective named Emmett Carver (Tennant). (Why this quiet little town has such a huge squad of homicide detectives is never properly addressed.) Naturally, this leads the two detectives to butt heads over the investigation into young Danny’s death. Ellie, whose young son was best friends with Danny, takes it personally. For gruff Det. Carver, it’s just another day at the office. Of course everyone in town is a shifty-eyed possible murderer, and the show’s first few episodes expend their time introducing us to each and every resident, just so we can sign them up for our suspect list.

“Gracepoint” explores the emotional effect of a child’s murder on friends, family and the community at large—all the while teasing us with endless red herrings over who could have committed the heinous deed.

Billed as a 10-part “mystery event,” “Gracepoint” has an awful lot in common with the first season of “The Killing.” Like that far-grittier whodunit, “Gracepoint” explores the emotional effect of a child’s murder on friends, family and the community at large—all the while teasing us with endless red herrings over who could have committed the heinous deed.

Gunn does fine work as the dedicated but bitter detective. She’s definitely the best reason to watch. Despite the fact that Tennant has done this gig before, he feels rather miscast as the burned-out alcoholic haunted by a past in which he presumably let somebody (probably a kid) die. His normally bright charisma is buried behind a surly American accent and some well-sculpted 5 o’clock shadow. Pondering why FOX went to the trouble of dragging him all the way across the Atlantic for such a generic role brings up the main problem with “Gracepoint”: its been there/done that feel. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the show. Plenty of folks will be intrigued enough to watch through all 10 episodes, guessing at the murderer’s identity all the while. But every element is so damn familiar—from the squabbling cop partners to the philandering dad to the troublesome local reporters. In today’s post-“True Detective” world, “Gracepoint” is just another quaint, old-fashioned police procedural for the TV pile. If you’re that intrigued by the premise, you’re better off watching the original version on Netflix. And you won’t have to wait 10 weeks to find out who did it.

“Gracepoint” airs Thursdays at 8pm on KASA-2.