English mysteries are an exceptional form of entertainment, that Gracepoint is a remake of what has been termed an outstanding seaside murder whodunit, is a compliment to the original, but someone should have told Fox that more is not better. Anyone who has seen the superior ITV (which stands for Independent Television) production either on English terrestrial channels or on the “American made” BBC America network, which presumably shows the best of British telly regardless of who makes it across the pond, knows that by this time in the original show, the killer was caught.
Fox have, in their single minded determination, kept the show all about finding the killer, which Broadchurch was also about, but not all about. Perhaps it has to do with location, or the Americanization of a tale best suited to seasides versus beaches, Mr. Whippy ice cream cones with a Cadbury flake versus whatever coastal snack could have been used in the U.S. version…snow cones?
Cop shows, even those that take place in a small seaside village and not in a London that really does not exist any longer (see The Sweeny or Z Cars) are different in the United Kingdom from those in America. Police in the U.K. do not carry guns, unless they are an armed response team, and cops in the U.S. do. That very basic thing is a game changer all around. In Broadchurch the local Bobbies do not walk around armed to the teeth, therefore their reaction to a crime in progress is a little less dramatic in terms of firepower. In terms of sheer gutsy bravery, they are very impressive, but the point is in danger of getting lost in procedural nitpicking. The bottom line is Gracepoint uses more of practically everything at the least in suspects and episodes in order to presumably make the show better.
Broadchurch the original tale, which has been elongated into Gracepoint this side of the world, is a combination cop show and sitting room mystery. While not quite on par with British icon Agatha Christie and her two world famous detectives, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, the show does look at how the murder of a child changes, effects and almost destroys a small community. All these things are shown in a very admirably succinct way in the ITV version. In the Fox Network story, it is all about Danny’s murder and who the killer is and very little time is spent on looking closely at the town.
Gracepoint has a whole “Who killed Danny” focus for the viewers in this country. Those who have not watched the original version of Gracepoint on BBC America or on Amazon.com and do not know who the killer is already, are urged to suspect “everyone.” Sort of a television type of Cluedo, or Clue as it is called in the U.S. minus the Colonel Mustard in the library with a hammer sort of guesswork. In the English source program the small town (village) police force wanted to catch the killer (and do) but the show was also equally about the effect of this heinous crime on the people in the village.
The Fox version has made a concerted effort to make more of everything. This use of increased episodes and increased suspects is a way of making the U.S. version better, although the addition of more episodes may have more to do with commercial breaks varying in each country. If the original version of Gracepoint had been a BBC production, the real deal and not a knock off aimed at the American market, there would be no place for advertisements during the show. In England viewers have to pay for a Television License which entitles any BBC channel to air shows sans commercials. ITV and it’s brothers and sisters, have commercials but nowhere near the amount that American telly has. Hence, U.K. viewers get more TV time per hour.
It has been pointed out that the extra advert time cuts down on show time, 50 minutes in England, equates to 42 minutes in the U.S. Add to this formula the fact that Gracepoint has been slowed down to a snail’s pace, although it should be pointed out that the original was not by any stretch of the imagination high octane, and added more suspects the end result is that the remake will take longer to end. The show is not a shot for shot remake, not with the more is better philosophy and not with the inherent differences between everyday life in the two countries. The show’s makers could even change who the killer is in the American version, but after watching the latest slow paced episode of Gracepoint, it does really look like it is the same person in both shows. Only time, and more episodes, will tell.
By Michael Smith