Remakes and adaptations are an important tool in the entertainment world. Not only do they expose new cultures and audiences to new ideas and stories enriching global culture, but the industry likes them because they are less risky as they already proved successful in another country or format.
Give the right creative minds a chance to put their own fresh spin on a property and magic can happen. Writer/producer Norman Lear was able to take the British sitcom, Till Death Us Do Part and reworked it into the American classic All in the Family which led to the spin-offs Archie Bunker’s Place, Maude, and The Jeffersons. The semi-autobiographical novel, MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors by Richard Hooker (Dr. H. Richard Hornberger) gave birth to Robert Altman’s Oscar winning film and to one of the most influential and popular TV series of all time. Looking towards more modern times we have shows such as Justified, House of Cards and even things as big as the Marvel Cinematic Universe all owe their existence to previous works.
My point is that remakes and adaptations can sometimes lead to some of the best art the entertainment world has to offer…
Aaaaaand then there is the rest of the time.
Broadchurch, created by writer Chris Chibnall, was a series that took the UK by storm. More than just a simple murder mystery, it sought to peel back the layers of quaint tourist trap town and show what really goes on. Who are these people who make this place their home? What secrets do they bury to keep up the illusion of purity and innocence?
When it hit stateside on BBC America, Broadchurch again drew critical praise and viewers, so it was no surprise that it was soon announced that an adaptation of the show for American audiences entitled Gracepoint would be hitting Fox this fall.
The digital age in which we live has made the flow of media properties from around the globe easier and easier to access. This means that finding the source material for any remake or adaptation is only a few simple clicks away. The result of this an ever increasing need for the new version of something to strike out and seek its own identity due to the fact that the audience for your project may just decide to skip your version and enjoy the older version instead. This is Gracepoint’s biggest sin, the stunning lack of its own identity.
Broadchurch was shot in the UK and they worked hard to make the town feel like a real place. Gracepoint, on the other hand, is an American production shot in Canada trying to make you believe it is the US while also trying to copy a fake British town. Is it any wonder then that Gracepoint feels inauthentic from shot one? There are so many states offering huge incentives to film and TV productions that could’ve been used instead. Not only would have brought in some true American flavor to the show, but a more drastic change in location could have affected the story and given Gracepoint some character of its own.
The first two episodes of Gracepoint were shot by the same director as those of Broadchurch, James Strong. This wouldn’t be an issue if it wasn’t for the fact that he copied himself for large sections of the first episodes shot by shot. This led to a product that seemed more interested in matching shots then anything else. I wasn’t expecting Strong to reinvent the wheel, but the new episodes should bring something new to the table, and they simply don’t.
If Gracepoint has one saving… um, grace, it is the fantastic caliber of actors they have managed to assemble. Anna Gunn is every bit as great as you’d expect. I feel she has been able to find her own version of Ellie Miller without subverting or compromising the integrity of the character. Micheal Peña hasn’t really had a chance to shine, but delivers the rock solid performance you’ve come to expect from him. Nick Nolte may turn out to really impress audiences, should the Jack character follow the path of his Broadchurch counterpart, but his presence has been a waste so far. The worst one off is David Tennant. Don’t get me wrong, Tennant is acting his ass off and delivering a great performance. However, due to network constraints for language and the writing’s inability to branch out, his Detective Emmett Carver feels like a tempered down version of his work in the original series as DCI Alec Hardy. I love Tennant and consider him to be one of the most talented actors working today, they just need to give the man more to work with.
If you think I’m being too rough on the series that is only because I care. I wanted to fall in love with this story all over again but poor decision after poor decision has hurt Gracepoint considerably. Episode four was the best in the series so far because it was the first episode that was allowed to go its own way. The deviations allowed allowed for more play for the actors and injected some real life into the show. That said, you shouldn’t be 40% through your murder mystery before you have an episode that sticks. Gracepoint has six more episodes and perhaps in that time it can rally and deliver the goods, but I’m not holding my breath. Still, if you haven’t seen Broadchurch and are looking for a slow burn “whodunit,” Gracepoint just may be the thing for you.