Revenge of the Remakes: Broadchurch vs. Gracepoint

When Broadchurch premiered on ITV in 2013, it was such a smash hit that it took only a year before the show (and its star) were brought across the pond for an American remake. I never watched either at the time, but I was on Tumblr enough to know two things: Broadchurch was amazing and Gracepoint was not. That’s all to say that I may have been slightly biased towards Broadchurch upon beginning these pilots.

Broadchurch was a crime drama created and executive produced by Chris Chibnall, who later became showrunner for Doctor Who in 2016. It ran for three seasons from 2013 to 2017 and received much critical acclaim. The show stars David Tennant (Doctor Who, Marvel’s Jessica Jones) and Olivia Colman (Fleabag, The Favourite) along with a large ensemble cast. Gracepoint was a 10-episode limited series that aired on Fox in 2014. The pilot episode boasted the same writer, producer, director, and star (David Tennant) as the British original, though the network was quick to point out that the remake would later diverge from the original. If you’re interested in what we thought about Gracepoint‘s pilot when it first aired, check it out here. Another remake of Broadchurch, Malaterra, aired in France in 2015, but I unfortunately could not find a way to watch the pilot.

The Faceoff

I don’t actually have a lot of thoughts about Broadchurch. But that’s because it was so freaking good that I forgot I was watching it with a specific purpose in mind and instead was completely engrossed in the story. I seriously can’t believe it took me seven years to watch this show. Every so often I had a moment that pulled me out, but it was usually due to recognizing one actor or another. My actual thought process went something like, “Oh my god, that’s the 13th Doctor! And 10! And Rory, too!?”

My biggest takeaway was that this was an incredibly complex episode of television where a lot of plot happened and a lot of characters were introduced in only 45 minutes, and it didn’t seem like the writers labored at that at all. I legitimately started to care about every person we met in some way, even after mere seconds of screen time.

I have only three complaints about the reality of Broadchurch (the show and the town).

  1. These are 11-year-old children. What sort of things are they getting into? When I was 11, I think the only thing I was “getting into” was an unhealthy Starbucks Frappuccino habit.
  2. Are there actual towns where you can walk down the street and literally know everyone and talk to them all? My mom is from a small town, and we’d frequently run into old friends or distant relatives, but it certainly wasn’t every single person.
  3. Don’t get me wrong – I would love a coworker who brought me vodka after coming back from vacation. But that seems a little unethical – you’re the police and you’re bringing liquor into the workplace?

Those are minor nitpicks at best and certainly don’t detract from the quality of the show. I can immediately see why people wanted to jump on the bandwagon and remake it. Which brings me to Gracepoint.

My biggest issue with Gracepoint is that it’s the same as Broadchurch. Like, the opening sequence is a shot-for-shot exact copy. The script is almost entirely the same, except for names and locations. So my question is: why are you remaking the show? When I watched The Office, I could kind of understand why it was remade. The British original never really landed in the States, and there was a four year gap between the two. But Broadchurch was a massive hit in the US off the bat. So if we were going to get a remake, it needed to do something new immediately. There needed to be a reason other than, “I want to make more money off of this one script.” I never found that reason while watching the pilot episode.

But besides that, Gracepoint wasn’t bad. The actors were good in their roles (though I really missed David Tennant’s accent). Obviously, with the same script, the story was still good as well. But somehow there were more loose ends and the characters fell a bit more flat. It felt less organic than the original. I missed the context and backstory that we got about many of the characters. While some of the many characters in the town still remained mysterious by the end of Broadchurch’s pilot, I still felt like I knew who they were in the context of the main characters. I didn’t get the same feeling about the townies in Gracepoint.

One change in Gracepoint disappointed me more than any others: the reason Beth and Mark assumed Danny was out of the house the morning of his death. Now, I get that kids in the US don’t have paper routes anymore so they had to find a new explanation, but the one they chose just didn’t land with me. My experience, even in super safe small towns, is that American parents don’t let their kids do much of anything unsupervised at that age, especially not leaving the house early in the morning. I can’t speak to helicopter parenting in the UK, but at least a job is a better excuse for lack of supervision.

And the winner is…

It should be no surprise that Broadchurch is the winner in this battle of the remakes. Gracepoint was good enough but there was no reason for it to be made. It didn’t do anything different or add any new angles. A promise of changes later on won’t keep me coming back if the first episode is an exact copy. While I am definitely going to keep binging Broadchurch, I don’t see myself ever returning to Gracepoint in the future.

So readers, do you agree with me? Is the end of Gracepoint worth it? What should I watch next? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

Check back next time when I watch That ‘70s Show and Days Like These.