Many a British show has faltered in its journey across the pond. The path to US remake is a treacherous one and The IT Crowd, The Inbetweeners, Skins and Gavin & Stacey have all fallen victim to the critics after undergoing an American makeover.
So, when it was first announced that Broadchurch – hailed by many as the UK drama of 2013 – was to be revamped by Fox, we were all a little nervous. Not only were they renaming it as Gracepoint, re-locating it and re-jigging the ending, but David Tennant was to adopt an American accent to portray DI Emmett Carver, his stateside equivalent. It all sounded horribly ominous…
So, with the first screenings already held in the States, and the reviews beginning to trickle in, do the cast and crew of Gracepoint pull it off? So far, the critics can’t quite agree…
Entertainment Weekly‘s Jeff Jensen is underwhelmed – although he’s coming to Gracepoint having not seen Broadchurch. He’s busy wondering, “What’s the big deal?”
Observing that Gracepoint is a “solidly plotted, drily observed whodunit” which “starts strong, holding your interest with the discovery of one secret after another,” he admits that after five instalments “the episodes after the pilot vibe bland thanks to familiar archetypes that are serviceably played.”
And it’s Tennant, in particular, whom he takes issue with for being “more pissy than pained, a cliché of the brooding, bad-mannered dick with a bum ticker. Gracepoint is good enough to keep you guessing, but not good enough to keep you from shrugging.”
Gracepoint is “considerably more than a pale echo” of Broadchurch, according to the New York Daily News. Why? Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn for starters, who “almost pulsates with frustration as she tries to figure out who could have committed this unthinkable crime.”
Meanwhile, “Tennant keeps it simmering under a gruff, annoyed exterior” as Gracepoint tells “a well-paced, multilayered story.”
Forbes was in agreement, waxing lyrical about the Fox drama. “Gracepoint is deliberate, but not slow. It’s affecting, but not forceful. It’s smart, but not egotistical. Everything mystery dramas of the last few years have failed to do is what Gracepoint nails.
“By not rushing itself while still making sure life in the small coastal town moves, the new Fox drama manages to find a happy middle ground that appeases fans of ‘high class television’ while still serving as a highly entertaining whodunit.”
The review also makes mention of Tennant who “reaches just the right amount of subtlety to get under a viewer’s skin without feeling preachy.”
The Huffington Post disagrees, labelling Gracepoint a “problematic slog”, adding, “it isn’t much fun watching David Tennant, who played the lead role in Broadchurch, struggle with an American accent, and it also isn’t enjoyable to see the way Anna Gunn is stranded in a role that doesn’t play to her considerable strengths.”
Maureen Ryan adds, by way of warning: “Aspiring visual storytellers and filmmakers should watch the first two hours each show, to see how one collection of creative choices serves the material and one doesn’t.”
Tennant’s drawl didn’t entirely convince Variety, who describe “a Yankee accent that takes some serious getting used to”. The series, according to Brian Lowry, is “competently executed” although “Gracepoint can’t help but feel as if something significant has been lost in translation.”
He goes on to query the very existence of a US remake – a question most British viewers have certainly raised: “Plenty of fine imports are readily available to feed the appetite of programme-hungry channels and streaming services. That makes eliminating the accents seem like not such a big deal, and the very idea of a US version slightly superfluous.”
No word yet on when us Brits will get the chance to form an opinion of our own on Gracepoint – although it’s expected to air in the UK on Broadchurch’s home, ITV. In the meantime, take a look at the trailer below…