October 10, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Pilot + 1 Review: “Gracepoint”


GRACEPOINT:  Thursday 9PM on FOX

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at SHOWBUZZDAILY, we look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on GRACEPOINT:  In the small seaside town of Gracepoint, in the western US (as opposed to the small seaside town of Broadchurch in the UK, where the BBC version of the same story took place), the body of 12-year old Danny Solano has been found on the beach below the town’s cliffs.  Brusque, newly imported detective Emmett Carver (David Tennant) is put in charge of the case, working with local detective Ellie Miller (Anna Gunn).  Whether or not they’re actually involved with Danny’s death, just about everyone in Gracepoint turns out to have something to hide.

Episode 2:  When FOX announced its pick-up of Gracepoint, it said the US version would be more than just a recreation of the British original.  Through its first 2 hours, though, with very small variations (one example:  the Nick Nolte character’s equivalent had a different job), that’s exactly what the show has been, even though the second hour was written by US showrunners Dan Futterman and Anya Epstein. (It was directed, however, by James Strong, who was also behind the camera in the UK.)  So this episode, like its British parallel, concentrated on uncovering secrets about Danny’s family:  police found cocaine in his sister Chloe’s (Madalyn Horcher) bedroom, his mother Beth (Virginia Kull) was miserably pregnant, and most suspiciously, his father Mark (Michael Pena) had lied about about his whereabouts on the night of Danny’s death and, as of this episode, was still being cagy about where he really was–but his fingerprints were found at the site where Danny was killed.  All of that was just as it had been in the earlier iteration.  Of course, for those who haven’t seen Broadchurch, and that includes most of America, that won’t matter very much.

For someone who has seen Broadchurch, it’s hard to tell whether the slightly warmed-over feeling of Gracepoint is something a newcomer would notice.  Certainly David Tennant’s odd American accent is distracting, and Anna Gunn is less convincingly small-town and more tightly wired than Olivia Colman was in her version of the role.  The American chemistry of the uncomfortable detective partners isn’t as strong.  Broadchurch itself eventually felt like it was using its characters as chess pieces, each one given an allotted secret and a red herring explanation until the final reveal, and that’s the case here as well.  Certainly the filmmaking is as atmospheric this time, the supporting cast is fine, and the overall sense of dread and unease is as ever-present.  Homeland, The Bridge, and The Killing, among other imports revamped for the US, had the advantage of not having been in English the first time around, so they were barely seen before the US versions arrived..

Gracepoint, a relatively slow-paced drama thrown up against Scandal on Thursday nights, was crushed in its premiere and went down further last night, and since it’s only a 10-episode limited series, it will probably run out its remaining 2 months and pass from the scene.  (Broadchurch, also originally set as a closed-end series, was such a wild success in the UK that a sequel has been ordered, which will again star Tennant.)  Here, the show seems destined to be little more than a footnote.


PILOT + 1:  A Virtual Digital Copy Of The Original



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."