The BBC murder mystery Broadchurch just ended its run on BBC America, earning rave reviews for its depiction of the ripple effects of murder on a small town. It was a great show with some truly standout performances, especially from Doctor Who’s David Tennant as a tortured police detective and Olivia Colman as his competent and put-upon partner.
Now FOX is taking Broadchurch and bringing it to America, again, with a remake also starring David Tennant. And the burning question is: why?
Broadchurch was (and maybe still will be, since it was renewed for a second season in the UK) a great show. It took a hard look at the repercussions of a young boy’s murder on the small town in which he lived, spending time with his family as well as with the media, police, and handful of sketchy suspects.
What Broadchurch is not, however, is remarkably original. Looking at the above description of the show a host of other “murder in a small town” movies and TV shows come to mind. The weird Twin Peaks, for example. Or the moody but imperfect AMC drama The Killing.
What made Broadchurch work was the economy of the storytelling and the deeply felt performances by the main cast. Remade for American audiences and probably expanded to more than the original run’s eight episodes, I can’t imagine Broadchurch will seem like anything remarkable to those who aren’t familiar with the UK original.
“Oh, another season-long murder mystery in a small town? Great.” You can already hear audiences hitting the snooze button. What made Broadchurch a great show didn’t lie in its premise, but in its execution.
The American remakes of British originals that work, however, usually work because the American version can spin something new and interesting from a unique premise. Like a documentary about a paper company (The Office) or a vampire, ghost, and werewolf living together (Being Human).
The first season of Broadchurch was a perfectly paced, self-contained story with a far from unique premise. Replanting the story to America and giving it more episodes to fill isn’t likely to make the show any better. For every successful American remake, there are at least five British to American disasters. Let’s hope Broadchurch isn’t one of those disaster adaptations, but even if the FOX version turns out to be good, it certainly doesn’t feel like a remake that needed to happen.
What do you think? Are you excited about the American remake of Broadchurch or scratching your head about why FOX is remaking it at all? Share in the comments!
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A certain doctor will be popping up on American television sets in a familiar role. David Tennant, who played a tortured British detective in Broadchruch, will now play a tortured American detective in Fox's remake of the show. Because foreign accents are different and scary, Tennant will leave his British accent behind, and adopt an American one for the new series that hopes to premiere on Fox in the 2014-2015 television season.
The original Broadchurch follows the lives of Alec Hardy (Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman), two detectives investigating the death of a young boy in small town Britain. The first season of the ITV series just wrapped up its first season on BBC America.
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Forget that the latest adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's sweeping romance novel comes from the man who brought us the slick-but-stuffy Pride and Prejudice and Atonement. Every frame of director Joe Wright's Anna Karenina is a wonder to behold overflowing with visual spectacle and roaring performances. Keira Knightley Jude Law Aaron Taylor-Johnson and the rest of the cast fit perfectly in the high drama epic but it's really Wright's playground. Following Hanna an artful spin on the action movie Wright returns to the period drama but injects it with dazzling daring choices. A book like Anna Karenina could once fit in reality but its larger-than-life legacy precedes it. Wright acknowledges that from frame one approaching the film like a grand ballet or opera where grand gestures broad emotions and overt theatrics are commonplace. That vision clicks transforming Anna Karenina into an exhilarating moviegoing experience.
The storyline of Anna Karenina isn't far off from a daytime soap: It's 1874 and Anna (Knightley) is floating through existence as the wife of influential government player Karenin (Law). But when her brother Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen) summons her to Moscow to save his marriage Anna's entire world is shaken up. She meets Vronsky (Taylor-Johnson) a cavalry hunk who finds himself smitten with the taken lady. She's in the same boat: The two strike up a flirtatious relationship that evolves into one of sexual passion. A scandalous affair would incite trouble in the preset day but in the 19th century it's the ultimate crime. Quickly Anna's life comes crumbling down.
The intertwining melodrama of Anna Karenina earned the novel its classic status but Wright uses the material as a launching pad for imagination rather than a tome to translate to screen. Many of the scenes are staged in a theater creating an instant awareness of the production. Sets shift and are reconstructed into new rooms; actors costume change in the span of single shots; action sequences like a thrilling horse race are conducted on stage with special effects you might see on Broadway. Wright works this sort of stylization in the other direction too; a character could walk an empty stage open a door and suddenly be on a snow-covered hill. Anna Karenina isn't the first film to use the effect but in Wright's hands it's exhilarating.
The movie is Wright's third collaboration with Knightley and easily their most successful. Knightley never struggles to stay on the same page as the heightened material whether she's nailing a dance sequence or breaking down in a flood of tears. Casting an ensemble around Knightley is no easy task but Taylor-Johnson gives his best work yet as the debonair love interest and Macfadyen steals the show with moments of physical comedy.
We have expectations of the texture and structure of period romances. Anna Karenina defies them. Masterpiece Theater it is not.