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'Gracepoint' Review: 'Broadchurch' Remake Is Familiar With Some Fresh Twists

10/01/2014 11:32 EDT | Updated 12/01/2014 05:59 EST

When I first heard Fox was remaking "Broadchurch", I immediately had my back up. The series rightfully touted as "Britain's biggest new drama since 'Downton Abbey'" lived up to all of its expectations, and then some. Could Fox really do the same with "Gracepoint"?

Well, if its goal was to make a carbon copy, then job well done. Because the premiere of "Gracepoint" -- and much of the second episode -- was virtually identical to that of "Broadchurch." With the exception of the cast (excluding David Tennant, who stars in both series), the characters' names and the decision to run 10 episodes versus the original's eight, it was frame-for-frame, the same.

Fox is promoting the 10 episodes as a "mystery event series," and it definitely is. The show focuses on the death of a boy, which is quickly upped to a murder investigation. And with a small town like "Gracepoint," not only does everybody know everybody, but it also makes everyone a suspect as well.

But just because you've seen "Broadchurch" doesn't mean you shouldn't, or don't have to, watch "Gracepoint." With its stellar cast, from Tennant and Anna Gunn, to Michael Peña, Jacki Weaver and Nick Nolte, the acting certainly isn't a problem. Neither is the writing. In fact, there aren't really problems, per se; rather, it's the similarities so eerily interchangeable that detract from the show's effectiveness. But hopefully it won't distract from the series' success.

Now, that being said, if you haven't seen "Broadchurch", all the better for you. But if you have, then you'll be wondering what I have been wondering with each new episode: Is there a point? Do I already know the killer in the town of Gracepoint since I already know the killer lurking in Broadchurch?

Kevin Zegers, who plays "Gracepoint'"s lazy journalist Owen Burke, shook his head emphatically when I posed that very question a few months back when he was in town for Shaw Media's upfront.

"The show is quite a bit different than "Broadchurch". Clearly we have a different ending. And you'll see as the show progresses, it veers away [from "Broadchurch"]. We also have two more hours so there's time and space to introduce some different things and you see the story grow from what "Broadchurch" was."

Tennant, who plays Carver on "Gracepoint" and Hardy on "Broadchurch," told media during a recent conference call that it's not weird telling the same story again because he's doing it in "a whole new set of circumstances, surrounded by completely different actors, and at times telling completely different parts of the story."

He added that there are some characters in "Gracepoint" that didn't exist on "Broadchurch", telling media during a recent conference call, "It didn't really feel like a repetition; it just felt like you were telling a story that was familiar, but there were enough differences."

Let me reiterate, I'm not saying don't watch it.

On the contrary, it's still fantastic, gripping television. You will care just as much about the Solanos as you did the Latimers. For all you parents out there, you might identify with mom Beth (Virginia Kull), whose heart you can feel breaking, or Mark (Peña), whose anger seems to nearly bubble over, or both. You will want young Danny's murder solved. And every time you think you know who did it, the series will throw a curve ball and will baffle you.

"Gracepoint" will grab you, but in a subtle way that is a nice change of pace from the typical beat-over-the-head style many shows are like nowadays. The plot is solid, smart and will have you guessing until the very end. Hopefully. But I'm still side-eyeing the "Gracepoint" character modelled after Broadchurch's killer.

"Gracepoint" premieres Thursday, October 2 at 9 p.m. ET on Global and Fox.

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