13 crucial differences between Broadchurch and Gracepoint

Almost identical as they are, we look at what’s actually been changed between episode 1 of Broadchurch and US adaptation, Gracepoint…

Warning: contains spoilers for the first episodes of Broadchurch and Gracepoint.

With the same story, characters, scenes, dialogue, male lead and screenwriter, episode one of Fox’s Gracepoint is no fuzzy “inspired by” adaptation, but a shot-for-shot impersonation of the Broadchurch opener. If Fox hadn’t paid what is probably a handsome sum for the privilege, we’d rap its knuckles with a ruler for copying ITV’s homework.

Perhaps because it’s kept so close to the source, so far Gracepoint makes for a pretty decent murder mystery, if an entirely superfluous one for audiences of the original. If you know Broadchurch, then Gracepoint’s opening episode makes for an uncanny hour of déjà-vu television. Explaining it to someone else is like explaining the illogic of last night’s dream: “David Tennant was there, but he was American, and everyone was really sad and wearing sunglasses and moving in slow-motion…”

From the peeling, ironic “Love thy neighbour” poster to that slo-mo sports day shot of a poignantly hula-hooping child, so far Gracepoint has taken everything Broadchurch had and made no creative decisions of its own. This may change as the season progresses, but at this point, it’s a wholesale import and a thoroughgoing copy.

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That said, there are a few points of difference between the two shows, and for the nerdier fans amongst us, here are the ones we spotted…

1. Everyone swears less

“He’s a little shit” said Ellie of nephew Olly after he prematurely leaked the name of the victim in Broadchurch’s first episode. “Bloody Twitter!” replied D.I. Hardy. “I should hang him from his bollocks from the town hall spire”, added Echo editor, Maggie.

There was none of that in the Gracepoint opener, which was a considerably cleaner-mouthed affair. The fruitiest the language came in episode one of the Fox show was a “Go to hell”, which replaced the much more British “Piss off” Mark said was Beth’s response to being woken up that morning. Olly/Owen’s editor still threatened him with castration, but phrased it in a more gentle “he’ll be singing at least another octave higher” manner. We’ll have to wait to see if Anna Gunn’s character will follow in Olivia Colman’s footsteps and promise to piss in a cup and throw it at David Tennant…

2. Nobody eats a 99

Like a ‘spot the difference’ page in a comic, the scene in which David Tennant’s character in Gracepoint is taken for a walk ‘n’ talk by a boss suggesting he comes off the murder investigation is precisely the same as in Broadchurch apart from two things: 1) his boss is a bloke, not a woman, and 2) neither of them are eating that British seaside staple, the 99 with a flake.

Thanks to the absence of Mr Whippy, the scene misses a little of Broadchurch’s local flavour and its winning combination of light-heartedness with emotional wretchedness. They could have been chewing on Oregon Taffy, perhaps?

3. DI Carver is slightly more of a dick than DI Hardy

Tennant’s Broadchurch detective, Alec Hardy (named in homage to Dorset-born author Thomas Hardy, and so presumably his Gracepoint character, Emmett Carver, is a nod to Oregon-born writer Raymond Carver?) is an irascible fellow. He’s abrasive, emotionally closed-off, and, as mentioned, a man capable of making you want to piss in a cup and throw it at him. Underneath all that in the Broadchurch series opener, he doesn’t seem to be a cruel or unsympathetic man.

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The few slight changes to Emmett Carver’s dialogue in Gracepoint however, push him over the line from grumpy to nasty, or at least they do from this side of the fence. Upon first meeting Det. Ellie Miller, Hardy mistook her for a passer-by and attempted to have her removed from the crime scene. Ellie told him she was police, showed him her badge and they set about work. When the same happens in Gracepoint, and Anna Gunn’s Ellie Miller says “I’m a cop”, Carver responds with a disbelieving “Seriously?”. Has Gracepoint added male chauvinism to Tennant’s character?

Just before that moment in Broadchurch, as Hardy is approaching the body on the beach, he’s clearly struggling but encourages himself to go forward with a frustrated “come on”. Instead, Carver says aloud “don’t do this to me”, which very slightly shifts his position from one of emotional conflict to self-pity and annoyance.

Finally, during the police station briefing scene after the body is discovered, Carver brusquely cuts Ellie’s account of Danny’s parents’ marriage off short (Hardy doesn’t), creating more visible friction between the pair.

4. There’s a tie-in website

Instead of the opening bars of the atmospheric Broadchurch theme song, So Close, seconds after Gracepoint had finished we heard a marketing call-to-arms: “Who killed Danny? Go to suspecteveryone.com and join the investigation” (website displays a running tally of which characters visitors to the site suspect killed Danny in percentages, automatically posting their vote to Facebook) followed by a trail for Gotham. It has to be said that something was lost in the translation, which, if it continues, will be even more of a shame when the cliff-hangers start coming.

5. Broadchurch had more underage sex

It’s a small change, but we hear that Beth had Chloe at seventeen in Gracepoint, and at fifteen in Broadchurch. Similarly, when Chloe meets her older boyfriend in the US version, there’s no reference to her age, while the UK version has him ask her if the police know about their relationship, “because you aint sixteen yet”. If US network TV was squeamish about that, it makes you wonder what else has had to change…

6. The method of murder is different

David Tennant has told press that he doesn’t know the resolution to Gracepoint, the ending having been changed from that of Broadchurch. Whether he’s telling a porky or not, one key change was made in the Gracepoint opener that could affect how the whole murder investigation unfurls. Instead of being strangled by large, male hands as Danny was judged to have been in Broadchurch episode one, in the US version, he was killed by blunt trauma, or a blow to the head. If the culprit has changed from the original, surely that puts Gracepoint’s women under suspicion, too…

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7. Vince the labrador isn’t a labrador or called Vince. Nige the plumber isn’t called Nige and is now called Vince (though he is still a plumber).

Australian actor Jacki Weaver plays the enigmatic Susan Wright in Gracepoint, the role taken by Pauline Quirke in the original version. Quirke’s character’s constant companion was a chocolate labrador named Vince in Broadchurch, which is now a sort of… Alsatian perhaps? Confusingly for viewers of both shows, the dog of indeterminate breed is not called Vince, but Mark’s plumber mate Nige, is. Just so you know.

8. The newsagents is a kayak hire shop

Instead of a newsagents and Sea Brigade, local loner Jack (Nick Nolte in Gracepoint, David Bradley in Broadchurch) runs a kayak hire shop for tourists and a Wildlife Group with responsibility for tracking local fauna. That means Danny’s paper round has been transposed to membership of said group. As a premise, it allows for fewer swipes at the press, and Jack won’t be able to tell nosy reporters sneeringly, “I sell ‘em, I don’t want to be in ‘em”. Speaking of which…

9. It takes fewer political jabs

Alongside Broadchurch’s exploration of grief and whodunnit ran a  thread of scepticism about the unscrupulous workings of the tabloid press, and a general sense of very British unimpressed-ness with those in authority. When we first met Vicky McClure’s journalist Karen, she was complaining about having to rewrite a press release from the Department of Education that was barely written in English. “I mean, who teaches these people?”, she joked to her colleague.

Without our ahem, proud, tradition of the tabloid red tops in the US, will Broadchurch’s political stance on the press be present in Gracepoint? Time will tell.

10. Nobody talks about the weather

“Beautiful weather eh?”, Yeah, sunshine and showers, they reckon”. “Lovely morning for it” and so on. Chris Chibnall’s Broadchurch script accurately observed the UK’s national obsession with the weather, and reflected it accordingly. The yank version, as well as them all driving on the wrong side of the road and complaining about having “low blood-sugar” (unless Ellie Miller’s a diabetic in this version, in which case we’ll allow it), has fewer conversations about the weather than it does swear words.

11. But they do all wear sunglasses


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12. And Olly/Owen drives a scooter with a surfboard strapped to it

That has to contravene road safety. Also, has Susan Wright swapped dogs? (see above) 

13. There’s a whale in it

Right at the end, flipping his tail, suspiciously. So far, he’s the main perp I’ve got fingered. It does say to suspect everyone.

Additionally… There’s no mysteriously absent Reg the photographer, no-one hassles Mark to sign a petition on the way to viewing his son’s body, there’s nothing about Olly/Owen’s ambitions to work in the nationals, they say sneakers instead of trainers, Chloe has a fever and not a temperature, Becca the Aussie is now Gemma the Brit, Brian SOCO is now a sexy Hugo Garcia, and Ellie at no point presents anyone with a stuffed penguin.

Apart from all that, it’s completely identical.

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