A murdered child. Mismatched detectives. A dreary small town where everyone has a big secret. You’ve seen Gracepoint before, in various permutations (Twin Peaks, The Killing) and possibly in the form of the show from which it has been all but xeroxed: I’m told this Fox ”mystery event”—a broadcast-TV bid to get into the anthology biz (True Detective, Fargo)—is often a shot-for-shot replica of the 2013 British smash Broadchurch. In fact, the star of the ITV series, David Tennant, plays the same redemption-starved scruffy-faced a–hole cop here, but with an American accent. I never watched the acclaimed Broadchurch, but after five episodes of Gracepoint, I wonder: What’s the big deal?
Not that Gracepoint is bad. This solidly plotted, drily observed whodunit starts strong, holding your interest with the discovery of one secret after another, and shows cynical regard for innocence in all senses of the term: In the seaside town of Gracepoint, the kids aren’t all right, and the parents ain’t much better. And yet the episodes after the pilot vibe bland thanks to familiar archetypes that are serviceably played. The grief-stricken mom. The angry, adulterous father. The suspect priest. The heartless journalist. Nick Nolte—his metamorphosis into a literal salty dog almost complete—amuses in fleeting appearances with his gravel-voiced raging. I appreciate Anna Gunn’s portrayal of a cop who won’t apologize for feeling feelings and wanting respect. But Tennant is more pissy than pained, a cliché of the brooding, bad-mannered dick with a bum ticker. Gracepoint is good enough to keep you guessing, but not good enough to keep you from shrugging. B-