Perhaps it’s becoming the TV equivalent of the World’s Fair: How does your culture/country interpret and adapt the 2011 Scandinavian crime series “Bron/Broen,” aka “The Bridge?”
Originally about a pair of detectives – one Danish and one Swedish – assigned to investigate the murder of a woman found on the Oresund Bridge, which connects the two countries, “The Bridge” got an admirable workover in an American remake on FX in 2013, where the same story (more or less) was set on the U.S./Mexico border at El Paso.
While we were watching that, the British were watching their own 10-episode version called “The Tunnel” – the same essential framework, story-wise, only this time the murder victim is discovered in a service tunnel alongside the Chunnel, which connects England and France.
The victim (victims plural, it turns out, given the murderer’s proclivity for dismemberment) is a French politician. Her corpse is displayed precisely on the dotted line between the two countries, thus a laid-back British investigator (Stephen Dillane) must team with a by-the-book French detective (Clémence Poésy) whose aloofness, viewers come to understand, is an Asperger’s-like condition.
So, yeah, a different take on the same show. Where FX’s “The Bridge” could draw on a backdrop of borderland drug cartels and immigration issues, “The Tunnel” hews more closely in look and feel to “Bron/Broen,” with a more “Broadchurch”-like gloom. The first episode is serviceable but offers little that would persuade viewers who’ve already seen another adaptation to commit to this one, because, frankly, there’s not much new to see. (Set this story in the North Korea/South Korea DMZ if you really want to liven it up.) On the other hand, there’s always something interesting about seeing multiple takes on the same basic story.
How this first season of “The Tunnel” ended up being featured on PBS’ Sunday night schedule some three years after it originally aired is itself a mystery. Perhaps we should point an accusing finger at the peak-TV phenomenon, in which Netflix, AcornTV and others are rushing to import every last scrap of European fare to American audiences. Sometimes that means a delightful discovery; sometimes it just means you’re watching another country’s half-OK TV show.
Sunday, June 19
(PBS at 10:30 p.m. ET, check local listings)