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There have been many disastrous (Life on Mars, Coupling, etc) and some surprising (Three’s Company, Sanford and Son, etc) US remakes of UK television. The most recent is one without a verdict, called Gracepoint – a US remake of Broadchurch, a BBC show that only aired over a year ago.
American television is not unfamiliar with the suave leading man or stylish lady who turns out to be an adorable Brittan putting on a great American accent (like Sonya Walger as Sally in the US version of Coupling). Here, however, we have a British actor, David Tennant, reprising his role as the outside detective who is hired in the position that the leading lady was promised. I put it that way because in Broadchurch his name is DI Alec Hardy and in Gracepoint he is Detective Emmett Carver, but essentially it is the same role.
I love David Tennant and was an avid watcher of Broadchurch when it aired in the UK, so when I heard they were making an American version called Gracepoint, I was non-too happy. But when David Tennant signed on to reprise his role, but with an American accent, I was curious. I have heard David Tennant do an American accent before, when he played Peter Vincent in the 2011 remake of Fright Night, but somehow his accent in this is a bit weird. I’m not sure if it is just because I have become accustom to his delicious Scottish accent, if he has more lines or more consecutive lines in this show vs. Fright Night, or if he is putting on a special twist to his accent because of the character. It’s not bad or overly jarring, but sometimes it’s a bit nasally.
So far, only two episodes have aired, but it is holding true to the original. The differences are minimal, the family whom the murdered boy belonged to is a Hispanic mix rather than the straight up English white, but that just plays up the melting pot that is America. Other than that it is just the cast, obviously, but there is definitely something to be said about it.
We have not yet gotten to know all the American characters well enough yet to speculate the overall casting, but some of the ones we have make me cock my head in question. Anna Gunn plays the lead opposite David Tennant, Detective Ellie Miller, the American version of the character of the same name played by Olivia Colman. It might just be biased opinion, but the first episode Anna’s portrayal was just more annoying than I remembered Olivia’s. There is a particular scene at the beginning where Ellie returns to work after a vacation, only to be told that the promotion she was promised has been given to another. She proceeds to run into the bathroom and calls her husband to vent. This happens the same in both version of the story, but Olivia’s portrayal of that moment was one of betrayal, frustration and anger and Anna’s was whinny and defeatist.
I felt a bit offended by it, honestly, as it looked like she was playing the victim and was going into a stereotypical “womanly” hysteria. This only amplified the line later, when she reaches the body and her new partner and she has to explain to him that she is a detective and not a bystander trying to get close, and he says “Really?” like she couldn’t be a detective. I believe the line is in both version because DI Alec/Detective Emmett are both a bit arrogant and are not used to small town detectives or politics. But the American one just seemed to strike the wrong chords.
I thought it was odd as well, that they hired a British actress for the owner of the Hotel/B&B. Do not get me wrong, I love Sarah-Jane Potts, but they hired her to play a Brittan, which is a weird offset to David Tennant playing an American. It’s not a good or a bad thing, just a question of – why?
The sad thing is that, even though I am born and raised American, brought up with American TV, I recognized more of the British actors in Broadchurch than I do with the American ones in Gracepoint. I do not know if that biases my opinion or not, but what does kind of bias me, is this:
In a world that is connected by technology, where things like Hulu plus can give you shows from all over the world, past and present, and there are cable channels dedicated to bringing in ‘foreign’ shows, like BBC America… Why did they feel it necessary to remake this show?
I had the good fortune of being in the UK while Broadchurch aired, but my parents easily watched it on BBC America. The same goes for things like Downton Abbey. Americans have to wait a little while for it to air on PBS, but it still airs in the United States. Neither of which have been bombing in the ratings and in need of a re-do or reboot.
So, if a show is this new, and so well done to begin with, it begs the question – why bother remaking it? To put an American spin on it? Would an English small town be that different from small town America?
Now, I will not claim to be unbiased when it comes to American remakes of ‘foreign’ TV or movies – in fact the track record of some of my favorite movies or shows getting redone for America has been a piss poor one and so I am generally against it. If you want to watch Godzilla – see the original Japanese, Pulse – the Japanese, Life on Mars – the British, Coupling – the British, Gracepoint – watch Broadchurch.
Still, this remake is shaping to be a decent one, with generally the same tension and who-dun-it feel. There is also the promise of a different ending, which means that although so far the secrets are the same, the murderer might be different. I have come to realize that sometimes it is said to get the views, so the mini-series end might disappoint me, but hopefully I will be enjoying the ride as much as I did with Broadchurch. Where this will fall in the spectrum of remakes, is still to be decided.
My predictions for it, if they actually change the killer, would either be:
Rev. Paul Cotes – because in Gracepoint, he seems a lot shadier than in Broadchurch, and I mean, Kevin Rankin is no Arthur Darvill
or Mark Solano’s business partner – whose name was Nigel in Broadchurch, but they have changed the name and I don’t think we have been formally introduced to him just yet.
The killer, once revealed in Broadchurch, was a fabulous shock – so although it would be a failure on their part, it wouldn’t be the worst to have that again in Gracepoint… but then again, at that point you might as well just watch Broadchurch.
I guess my point is that everyone who hasn’t seen it should watch Broadchurch!
Have you been watching Gracepoint? What do you think so far?
Is there any reason that you are watching is instead of Broadchurch (if that’s the case)?
Let me know in the comments!