The fall TV season has been a pretty mixed bag so far. To be honest, even though I’ll follow a couple of them for a while, I haven’t found any of the season’s new shows truly exciting. Of what I’ve seen, Fox’s new murder mystery ‘Gracepoint’ is perhaps the most interesting. Naturally, the premiere got terrible ratings and the series will probably be yanked off the air shortly without resolution.
The show is an Americanized remake of a British series called ‘Broadchurch’, and carries over original star (and former Doctor Who) David Tennant, here with a dodgy American accent and a douchey haircut. The story is set in a small coastal town in California – the type of close-knit community where pretty much everyone knows everyone else’s business, yet not much ever happens. That changes dramatically when the body of 12-year-old Danny Solano is found on the beach under a cliff, and the medical examiner concludes that his death was neither an accident nor a suicide. The boy was murdered and his body staged.
Anna Gunn from ‘Breaking Bad’ plays local police detective Ellie Miller, who returns from vacation to learn that she’s been passed over for promotion and that the department has brought in big city detective Emmett Carver (Tennant) to fill the position she was promised. Carver doesn’t know anything about the town and is very rude and arrogant. Basically, he’s an asshole. As the pilot episode progresses, we learn that he took the job essentially to lie low after his involvement in a controversial case called “Rosemont,” of which we don’t know much yet except that he insists he did nothing wrong.
The Solano case hits on Ellie’s first day back, and she grudgingly partners with Carver on it. This is her first murder investigation. Ellie knew the victim’s family, and her own son was friends with the boy – not that Carver cares. If anything, he assumes that her emotional attachment will be a hindrance to her objectivity.
The boy’s father (Michael Peña) has a strangely calm reaction to the news of his son’s death, which pegs him as an early suspect. After Ellie tells her son Tom about his friend, he secretly deletes a bunch of texts off his cell phone and files off his computer. Nick Nolte has a seemingly small role as a crusty local who runs a wildlife observation program the victim volunteered for, Presumably, there’s more to his story or a recognizable star like Nolte wouldn’t have been cast to play the character.
With subject matter like this, comparisons to ‘Twin Peaks’ are inevitable, but ‘Gracepoint’ has a different – very serious and mournful – vibe. I have not seen ‘Broadchurch’ to know how much this version sticks to that one.
The first episode is artfully directed, though perhaps goes a little overboard with the pretentious use of slo-mo. The characters and story are interesting enough to have captured my attention, despite the fact that I feel pretty burned out on serial murder mysteries these days.
As I mentioned, ratings for the premiere last week were not good at all. The network has been advertising the show as a ten-episode miniseries, so hopefully it will have an ending with some closure before Fox pulls it from the air.