The Paley Center is screening new fall pilots this weekend, so I braved New York’s latest heat wave yesterday to sit in an air conditioned theater and watch television. I was there for all of it, from Ioan Gruffudd’s suave man scarves in Forever to the comic book fun of The Flash, but I was especially there for Gracepoint. When David Tennant’s name appeared onscreen, we heard an audible swoon from a group a few rows ahead of us, and we knew we were amongst friends.
Broadchurch, the gorgeous, nearly flawless murder mystery that lit up the UK last year, stayed with me as much as any show ever has, so I’ve been following this remake since it was announced. On the one hand, WHY? Broadchurch JUST aired. Are Americans really that bad at understanding other accents? Do we really only watch American shows? Yes on both counts, apparently. Even when it aired stateside on BBC America, to rave reviews from critics, Broadchurch didn’t get the viewers that it deserved. So now we get the Americanized Broadchurch remake that we deserve, retitled Gracepoint so as to broadly sound like a church. It’s not anything new. But it’s got David Tennant, so I need it to be brilliant.
The fact that Gracepoint and Broadchurch share the same lead actor should make this remake seem even more pointless, but if you’re going to keep anything, from any show, keep David Tennant. And if Chris Chibnall (creator of Broadchurch and EP on Gracepoint) thinks that he has another story worth telling, I’m going to trust him to tell it well. I understand why so many Broadchurch fans are wary of Gracepoint, but I’m not anymore. I can’t be. I’m too happy to see David Tennant’s face on network television, and preferably on a number of talk shows. I REQUIRE a Craig Ferguson interview out of this. The show might be repetitive for those of us who loved the original, but it will at least be quality repetition, because any version of Broadchurch is better than most shows out there.
Broadchurch is lightning in a bottle. Even the weather plays its part; it starts out bright and sunny, a cruel reminder that the world doesn’t stop when people we love die, only to turn colder and grayer as the characters start to lose themselves. The cinematography is gorgeous. Ólafur Arnalds’s score is haunting and driven. The cast is REAL, top to bottom, every one of them carrying that grief in them like it’s theirs and letting it fracture them how it will. Not one of the characters is easy to categorize.
So far, Gracepoint’s cast looks up to the task (with the possible exception of Michael Peña, who just isn’t as raw as Andy Buchan). Olivia Colman gave the finest performance of the year as Ellie Miller, and no one else can do exactly what she did, but if anyone can come close, it’s Anna Gunn. Her chemistry with David is solid already. And as for that American accent of his, we’ve got nothing to worry about. It’s actually good. It could never hold a candle to the lyrical Scottish gruffness that defined and informed so much of his character on Broadchurch, but I’m still irrationally proud of him for pulling it off. As Emmett Carver, he makes a lot of gloriously indignant faces—maybe even more than grumpy Detective Inspector Alec Hardy—and wears sunglasses, which is a bit like dressing your Border Collie in a hooded sweatshirt and trying to make him look like the fifth member of a boy band. Gracepoint is worth it just for the sunglasses.
But really, it’s going to be almost impossible to accurately compare Gracepoint to Broadchurch until we’ve seen every episode. The pilot is almost a shot-for-shot remake. We’ve been warned that the first two episodes will be. After that, the cast and crew promise new twists—enough to fill two more episodes and, they say, lead us to a different killer. But they might just be saying that to keep us on our toes. So much of Broadchurch is defined by how it ends, and I can’t imagine how any other ending could work as well. If Gracepoint names the same killer, we’ll have a good story on our hands, even if it doesn’t surprise fans of the original. It would take a lot of work to earn a different killer, but if somehow they manage to stick the landing, we should all throw awards at Chris Chibnall for making lightning strike twice.
Basically what I’m saying here is that however you get your scruffy David Tennant, you’re making a good call, and there are worse things than to have another Broadchurch.