I am an unapologetic devotee of the groundbreaking, profoundly moving British crime drama series Broadchurch. It is the mostly deeply and thoroughly human crime drama I've ever seen. As Fox kicks off the official first episode of the American remake this week, I plan on watching that as well. (David Tennant is reprising the lead, though without his usual Scottish accent. The rest of the characters have been recast.) They say there's a different ending, hinting at a different killer. Here are my thoughts on the likely differences in the two shows.
Warning: While there aren't full-fledged "spoilers" in here for either series, there is some open speculation here about "whodunnit" in the American version which I have obviously not seen yet, and that does contain some information about who didn't do it in the prior British version. So don't read if you don't even want hints.
There are some things that they simply had to change if they were going to do an American remake. The dad's best friend won't be named Nigel, and probably nobody will poach pheasants or own a crossbow. Those things just wouldn't work if the story were set in the U.S. It was also predictable that the cast would have a little more racial variety over here, since the U.S. has more racial variety than the U.K. (The crime affects the Solano family in the U.S., where it was the Latimer family in the U.K.)
Other things that probably wouldn't happen in a U.S. remake:
- The lady detective crying so often. That's not simply against some PC etiquette for how professional women are portrayed; it's also fairly unrealistic for how an American lady detective would handle herself in the professional world.
- The minister being portrayed positively. Most U.S.-based shows, if they portray Christians at all, portray them at least somewhat negatively. Think Ned Flanders from The Simpsons, or Angela Martin from The Office.
- The lady detective having huge and glaring blind spots that compromise her professional judgment, as part of the plot. While blind spots could happen to anyone in the real world, it's somewhat against PC etiquette for how professional women are portrayed on TV or in film, especially if their blind spot relates to them being somewhat emotional and naive. (As we have already seen in the previews for Gracepoint, in the U.S. version the lady detective does not get passed over for a promotion at the hands of a lady supervisor, but at the hands of a male supervisor, and does not react by pouting in a bathroom stall.)
As it affects the crime and "whodunnit" though:
There were only 3 strong suspects in the British version (er, ok, 2 strong suspects and the surprise of who really did it). If they're going to change "whodunnit" for the American version, you can bet they won't change both the race of the actor to non-white and then make him the criminal too; that's not likely to happen. So my bet is that, in the U.S. version, "whodunnit" will be the other remaining suspect: the Christian minister. (The main pro -- and the main con -- of that choice are the same thing: given some of the undertones of the crime, hanging it on a preacher or priest would be predictable.) But another con: dramatically, the preacher is a far weaker choice for "whodunnit" than was made in the British version, where the killer was known and trusted by quite a few people, which led to some amazing reactions as the town realized who had actually committed the crime and how they had trusted the killer. In the British version, the innocent-but-suspected vicar is somewhat of an outsider. So while it would have been shocking if he had done it, still not to the extent as when the true killer was revealed. If they want to keep the absolute thunderstruck reaction of having known and thoroughly trusted the killer, if it's the preacher then they'll have to make him more of a part of the action, or risk losing all the drama when people realized that they knew the person who did it. I actually hope they keep the original identity of the killer in the U.S. remake. Some of the character arcs and relationships were deeply affected by the killer's identity.
So that's my best guess (and wishlist) for how Gracepoint might unfold.