[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all “These are reviews.” If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show: “Gracepoint” (FOX)
The Pitch: “'Broadchurch' is a great show, but more people wanted to watch it but were scared off by foreign accents than actually watched it.” “Is that true?” “I have no idea. Let's hope so.”
Quick Response: FOX's 10-episode “Gracepoint” finished production in May and, as a result, critics have actually see two episodes, rather than just the pilot. There's also a chance we may have seen much more, if not all, of the murder mystery before it premieres. I need to see more, because through two episodes I just can't figure out the point and I can't really evaluate its quality other than “unnecessary.” Because of “Capote” and “In Treatment,” I have a ton of respect for “Gracepoint” showrunners Anya Epstein and Dan Futterman and I'm willing to watch a lot of this in the hopes that at some point it will deviate from “Broadchurch” and I'll be able to go, “OK. Now I understand the reason this version of this story had to be told” and whether it's an improvement or a desecration, I think I'm prepared to respect that deviation. But so far, “Gracepoint” is “Broadchurch,” from the dialogue to the emotional beats to many of the compositions and I can't judge it as anything other than a Xerox. There are performance differences. David Tennant doesn't seem comfortable with his Columbo accent, but he's got the same desperation in his eyes as he did in the original. So far, I see more advantage for him in doing this as an acting experiment than to the show for having him, but that could change. Anna Gunn is, inherently, more brittle and hard-edged than Olivia Colman, but that hasn't had time to pay off and perhaps it will impact how the case unfolds. I like Kevin Rankin's twitchy interpretation of the Reverend. I always like Nick Nolte's voice-from-the-gravel-pit-of-hell thing and as good as David Bradley is in the original, Nolte's character is the one who seems most immediately reinterpreted — He runs a kayak shop, not a news agent! I sense Michael Peña doing slightly different things from Andrew Buchan and making the grieving father his own. I can tell that Virginia Kull isn't bad and that she's feeling her character deeply, but as long as her character is identical to the “Broadchurch” equivalent, I can't get past the awesomeness of Jodie Whittaker. There's a fine and somewhat different visual atmosphere from the “Northern California” (by way of Victoria, BC) setting but, again, no sense of how small-town NoCal might be different from small-town coastal England. This is the rare and disconcerting example of an instance less might have been more when it came to screeners. I either needed to see one episode — written by “Broadchurch” original Chris Chibnall and directed by “Broadchurch” original James Strong — with the reassurance that narrative changes were coming subsequently, which would have made sense, or else I needed three or four or five episodes, however many were necessary to see the impending changes, so that I had a fuller picture. Two unchanged episodes ended up being exactly the wrong number, making the possibility of prolonged overlap feel like a real threat. And I have no way of telling you how well “Gracepoint” does or doesn't work if you don't know the original. I think many of the emotions will still play and if you don't know Tennant at all, you may not be distracted. But I can't say for sure. This is a weird one.
Desire To Watch Again: My desire to watch again is actually strong, because I want to start to see Futterman and Epstein's fingerprints. Eternal optimist that I am, I can't accept they were brought in just to trace. And if they get to do their own thing, this is absolutely a good enough cast to pull it off. But for now, the show and my ability to process it are suffocated by “Broadchurch.”
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