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Gracepoint or Broadchurch: A British Mystery by Any Name


Gracepoint or Broadchurch: A British Mystery by Any Name

Gracepoint began on FOX Thursday after quite a good bit of buildup and it turns out to be a British mystery, literally as it is a frame by frame re-shooting of Broadchurch, the 2013 ITV award-winning television show in England; while the locale of the story has changed, by any name the series is essentially the ITV drama sans tea and scones. There are some things that have not been altered in this move across the “big pond.” The former Doctor Who actor David Tennant plays the exact same character but with a significant name change, Hardy in the ITV drama and Carver in the FOX version.

The plots, regardless of Tennant’s character’s name change, are identical. If one goes to Amazon.com or had a subsription to BBC America network and watched the show when it aired September 2013 it is obvious that right down to the lighting of the scenes each series is a carbon copy of the other. The exceptions being the other players in the show. The show’s biggest mystery is why Tennant was the only actor drafted in to play his role again but this time with a gruff, non-topical American accent.

In the original, Ellie Miller was played by the divine Olivia Colman (who proved she was brilliant at comedy as well as drama in Nick Frost’s Hot Fuzz as PC Doris Thatcher). Colman is an award winning actress who pulled in the Best Actress BAFTA for her work on Broadchurch. She will also be returning to the show’s second ITV season to reprise her role. Gracepoint utilizes another award winning actress in its adaptation of a British mystery, by any other name, Anna Gunn or, aka Skyler White from AMC’s Breaking Bad.

The U.K. show had the mother of the murdered boy being portrayed by the wonderfully diverse and talented Jodie Whittaker (Venus, St. Trinians, Attack the Block) who is also equally adept at comedy as well as drama. David Bradley, played the Nick Nolte role – who incidentally does not seem to be listed in IMDb at all as being in the new version of the Brit show. Bradley has been “knocking em dead” on The Strain but in the English seaside mystery was newsagent Jack Marshall. Newsagents are shop owners who sell and distribute newspapers to the general populace. They hire a lot of very young school boys, and recently girls, to deliver the papers via rounds; very much like they used to in America.

The practice of door-to-door news delivery must have changed in the states since the adaptation of the show has an awkward device of Nolte’s character being the local kayak rental proprietor. He also records the local coastal sea life which the young children take turns to help out at, which is used to explain the mystery of why young Danny is out in the morning so early before school.

The British website “Den of Geek” took the time to point out 13 differences between the two shows, or same show with a different name and completely different cast sans Tennant. This attention to detail has to be admired and, if one comes from the land of Punch and Judy shows by the seaside and the Mr. Whippy van selling the .99 pence Cadbury flake in an ice cream cone, can result in a small wave of homesickness which can be excused.

A side note is needed here to explain that seaside is British English for “the beach.” Just a point of reference that explains a lot, especially as the “Den of Geek” so helpfully points out that when Hardy as Carver walks along the water with his American boss there is no “.99.” It is hard to understand, perhaps as hard as understanding the mystery of why there is no American equivalent of the .99 at the beach, why FOX did not just purchase viewing rights from BBC America and show the original.

Since David Tennant is in both shows, there appears to be no real reason that this could not be done. No one in the original Broadchurch series speaks with a confusing accent, not like the regulars on the Brit soap Eastenders for example. So why was Gracepoint dreamed up? A British mystery is still a mystery regardless of location or accents. In other words the story is the same even with different actors and the “13 differences” pointed out by the Brit website. Still the premiere on FOX of Gracepoint was entertaining enough, but if viewers want a slice of English drama and puzzle solving they should check out the original on BBC America or rent the first season on Amazon. It may be interesting to watch each episode twice, i.e. as the American show airs follow up by watching the English version. Certainly Tennant’s character in the ITV series is much less grating. Must be the accent.

By Michael Smith




Den of Geek


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