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.