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Broad is better than pointed

This week is the eighth episode of Gracepoint, and I have to say, I'm just not feeling it. I do wonder if I'm judging it too harshly because I just loved Broadchurch and there's no way this remake is going to measure up, but I'd like to think I've given it a fair chance.

It's very hard to watch Gracepoint without comparing it to Broadchurch, because a lot of the characters and story points are similar between the two shows, so you're bound to look at something and, even if you're not thinking that it's better or worse, you're at least thinking that you've seen it before. For a Broadchurch viewer, Gracepoint suffers from that lack of freshness. But there's more to it than that. To really understand why Gracepoint may not be as good as Broadchurch, you really have to understand what it was about Broadchurch that made it stand out.

In and of itself, Broadchurch really isn't that great a murder mystery. While DI Hardy does figure out who killed Danny Latimer, the vital clue arrives in the second to the last episode as a matter of chance, and by that time, the killer has already started to come forward; if Hardy hadn't figured it out, the killer would still have been revealed. What made Broadchurch compelling is that it painted the picture of this idyllic British seaside town, then slowly peeled back its layers as the death of Danny Latimer exposed the secrets of its inhabitants: people had shady pasts and were hiding trysts and conflict beneath a facade of family and community. The town of Broadchurch began to fall apart under the intense scrutiny of the police and the media. During this, however, it started to come together in new ways. People started to learn who they could trust and who they couldn't, and with what. The Latimer family grew together, not apart, with Beth and Mark closer than they had been, even after Mark's philandering, and they welcomed Dean into the family. And on top of it all, Hardy's and Miller's complex relationship evolved, from anger on one side and lack of respect on the other, to more of a friendship than either of them were willing to admit at the end.

That's what Broadchurch was. It was a beautiful exploration into what happens when the unthinkable happens. A lot of it hinged on the setting, because the plot developments were far more striking when they happened to these normal, everyday people in this sleepy seaside town nestled against soaring cliffs. You never lost the sense that these people were just like the people you know, and that the horrible things that were happening - the attempted lynching, the media frenzy, the suspicion that the person next to you could be the killer - could easily happen to you.

Gracepoint seems to have lost sight of the point of Broadchurch. It was billed by Fox as a "10-week mystery event", dwelling on the detective side of the story. It has put far less emphasis on the struggles of the Solano family as they dealt with Danny's death, and far more emphasis on establishing a wider cast of possible suspects, such as Chloe's boyfriend Dean and the mysterious hiker (Pearson, I think his name is). In a way, I feel that they've tried to really make it feel like an American detective show, as opposed to retelling a British one without the accents and references to British culture. Yes, Carver carries a gun, which is standard for an American cop, but they inserted a chase scene, when he and Miller went to question Dean, making it feel like a very American detective show. There's more sensationalism. Danny's no longer the innocent victim, but is shown to have had troubles he was hiding from his parents and had been caught on camera stealing from a shop. Carver's daughter actually shows up, in a series of scenes meant to underscore how poor a father Carver is; she was much better left as a hinted-at figure from Hardy's enigmatic past.

One strike against the show is that the town of Gracepoint doesn't feel small and idyllic. I think one of the problems is that Anna Gunn's Ellie Miller doesn't feel like a small-town detective. While the dialogue establishes that Carver is teaching Miller how to be a detective, she still feels and acts like a city detective: very strong, decisive, and hardened. She feels a lot like Kate Beckett in Castle, actually, and it feels wrong for a small-town detective who has never dealt with a murder case before and whose close friends are the victim's parents to be so confident and detached - she makes the town seem bigger and more worldly than it should be. Olivia Colman's Ellie Miller felt like the small-town detective she should be. While she was a trained detective, she felt like she grew up in Broadchurch and she struggled between her loyalty to the town and what Hardy was showing her she needed to be to be a good detective.

One other thing that has bugged me about Gracepoint is its rapid scene-switching. It has a lot of characters to deal with - more than in Broadchurch - and it jumps from one snippet to the next, trying to make sure you get to see what everyone is doing. A case in point: in Broadchurch, there's one scene where SOCO Brian brings a piece of evidence to Miller, then asks her out on a date. She refuses, saying she's married, then, after he leaves, she goes to Hardy, tells him about the evidence, then mentions that Brian asked her out. (To which Hardy replies, "Why would he do that?" Hardy got some of the best lines in the show.) In Gracepoint, this was cut into two scenes: a minute for the exchange between the Brian-analogue and Ellie, a minute for a different scene between two other people, and a minute for the exchange between Ellie and Carver. There was no need to break the scene up, and it just adds a sense of jerkiness to the entire show.

I'm still interested enough to want to see Gracepoint through to the end, and I think it's a good enough show if you haven't watched Broadchurch, but it could have been so much better. I do plan to give it a second viewing someday (assuming it doesn't jump the shark in the last three episodes), but for now, I think the original is the thing to watch.



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 19th, 2014 08:59 am (UTC)
On the whole, I have to agree with you; I really am not getting a terrific viewing experience with Gracepoint. Okay, they've managed to plug the holes that irked me about Broadchurch: the wishywashy school response and the Latimer daughter being (how can I put this politely?) dramatcally lacking. But as the story of Gracpoint has increasingly annoyed me as its progressed on. The whole thing with the daughter was hardly worth bothering with. I think I could have easily guessed that a busy, committed police officer would have been more than neglectful of his daughter since, you know, he's actually in the middle of a murder investigation. But my man gripe is the general level of acting. When Nick Nolte turned up and did his piece I gave silent thanks for some decent acting at long last because I finally felt I wasn't watching a soap opera with glitzy filming. The hotel woman really needs to decide what accent she wants to stick to because it is generally all over the place, and I'd happily jail her for crimes against the script. Whilst Fr Paul really creeps me out to the point that there's no way I would ever want to spend time alone with him in a deserted church to talk about anything, let alone my problems.

Talking of problems, I too find Ellie Miller, but weirdly enough it is for precisely the opposite reason. You said that Olivia Coleman's Ellie was a trained detective, which I heartily agree with, and for some strange reason I expected similar from Anna Gunn's Ellie; but she has not impressed me at all with her policing skills. Do small town police officers not get training? Sorry if I sound thick on this point, but all the police people I've known have been very hard nuts and professionals where their job is concerned (I'll just blame the Metropolitan Police for that one). So I couldn't for the life of me understand why Ellie couldn't suspect people in the town of murder or that she winced at the suspect list. Anyway....

It was really mean of them to make Danny into a thief, thereby almost saying it was okay for him to be removed from society. And there was a lovely spoiler before the last episode with the tag line "another boy is murdered" Fox obviously didn't want me to worry about Tom being found okay; so I didn't. I was quite blasé about it by the time they found the bike. *sigh* Yes, it lacks the humane element this time around.

Oops! I am so sorry for rambling on about this, but I'm continuing to watch it so at least I haven't been totally put off. DT still has his pulling power; but I just want to walk up and mess his hair up. That helmet style looks glued down st times. Never mind, he might be allowed to smile again this week. ;)
Nov. 22nd, 2014 07:14 pm (UTC)
Omg Fr. Paul is one creepy guy! And while they hint about his relationship with Beth, they ignore it for multiple episodes at a time. Actually, that's one of the problems I'm having with the show is that they bring things up and then ignore them for a very long time. (The mysterious hiker, the psychic who suddenly shows up again just to add angst) Which I realize is the way life works, but it doesn't make for a good story.

I haven't seen episode 8 yet, but it's waiting for me and I don't really feel any compulsion to get watching. My husband and I are spending a day out of town and I have about four hours of lounging to do, and I keep thinking, "I'm going to watch the classic Who episodes I brought with me", while forgetting I have episode 8 right here and ready. That tells you something.

I definitely agree with you about Chloe in Broadchurch - I definitely like the Gracepoint version better. And DT's hair! DI Hardy's was so much better.
Nov. 19th, 2014 01:23 pm (UTC)
Interesting! I haven't watched either, but I've heard a lot about Broadchurch. (My mother tends to fill me in in detail when she watches something good that she knows I won't have time to check out.) Sounds like they really went for adapting it to the American spirit and audience, but naturally that left behind some great assets of the original… I never do get the point of adaptations, but ah well. ;)
Nov. 19th, 2014 02:53 pm (UTC)
S'why I skipped this. The original was going to be better no matter how they 're-did' it.

Nov. 22nd, 2014 07:06 pm (UTC)
I didn't think it would be as good as Broadchurch, but I didn't think it would be as disappointing. I'll probably watch it again someday, because David Tennant, but I'm already itching to rewatch Broadchurch while there's an unwatched episode of Gracepoint waiting for me on my iPad.
Nov. 30th, 2014 10:01 pm (UTC)
Not sure who they are going to peg this time as the murderer. Frankly, unless it's one of the immediate family members or someone very very close to the family (like the priest), or the same as Broadchurch, I really don't see the emotional impact to be as devastating as it was in the original. The point was the effect on the town, the suspicion, the healing that began afterwards. If some outsider were to have done it (like the hiker), it just wouldn't be the same, just another senseless murder and the town can just move on from that. The whole point about not knowing what goes on under one's own roof will be lost.

I don't know, maybe they think we Yanks can't relate to such emotions like that and just want a cold murder mystery with a simple solution and no fallout... not this Yank!

Yes, I agree. That hair needs to be ruffled a lot more! It's way too neat!

Oh, on a funnier note: My husband at first refused to sit down to watch it with me because, it's (you know) David Tennant and I was going on and on about it. He'd never seen Broadchurch, so had nothing to compare it to. About midway through the series, he finally sat down with me and commented, "You know, this is pretty good. I'd have watched it starting earlier if you hadn't gone on about it. Oh, and Tennant's accent is understandable, not bad either." There you have it from someone who hadn't been spoiled with the original!

Edited at 2014-11-30 10:07 pm (UTC)
Dec. 1st, 2014 03:53 am (UTC)
Oh, exactly. It cannot be the hiker. First, they've been harping him the whole season now, so it really can't be him. That's standard for murder shows - you have to give the audience someone to watch while the cops figure out that it's someone else. But yes, the show will have no impact if it's just this random guy. It has to be someone close.

I just think that they feel that we Yanks need more emotional jerking around (that's the only reason I can think of why they added that whole "Ellie's son is missing" storyline that took up more than a full episode), and by adding that, they lost sight of what they were trying to do. I'm hoping I turn out to be wrong, that the resolution is more gripping than it's looking.

Glad to hear that a non-Broadchurch viewer is liking it! My husband hasn't seen Broadchurch either, but he's not the type to like this type of drama, so he isn't watching Gracepoint.
Dec. 1st, 2014 04:06 am (UTC)
Right, and if Tom is telling the truth, there really was no point to it, and he should have known better.

I'm not quite sure if my husband has ever heard David Tennant's natural accent. He's seen him in Doctor Who, caught a glimpse when I was watching Richard II (I got a mouthful on that about the long hair and what's with the white gown, etc. etc.), and now this....
Dec. 1st, 2014 05:20 am (UTC)
Maybe your husband might like Much Ado About Nothing? You can buy/rent it at digitaltheatre.com. It's set in modern times (the Falklands War), so it's a little easier to stomach than regular Shakespeare, and it is very hilarious. Both Tennant and Tate are superb. It took me about ten minutes to get used to the language, but after that, I understood it pretty well.
Dec. 1st, 2014 12:28 pm (UTC)
I heard they are looking for another project to do together (at least according to Tate). I did think it was hilarious, especially if you understand some of the expressions (really risque!).

It was just the shock of seeing him so "effeminate" that got to him, although he did tell me not to watch it when he was around, as it was Shakespeare. So who told him to come home from work at lunchtime?!? Of course, he hasn't seen DT actually dressed up as a woman... pretty good job, too, and that would have totally scared him!
Dec. 2nd, 2014 04:02 am (UTC)
Oh, that Miss Piggy costume was fantastic. And it's kinda scary that he looks better in a skirt than I do... :\
Dec. 2nd, 2014 12:22 pm (UTC)
It is kind of scary how good he looks made up as a woman! (Although his Mary costume wasn't so great; the wig was utterly awful! Still, he made it work...)
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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