It’s usually the Americans who remake things. They take something excellent and say “Yeah, that’s great – lets remake it in American”. Even things in the same language that they speak, like ITV’s recent hit Broadchurch, cannot escape their claws. It’s a process that is both arrogant and depressing, an attempt at ownership that feels as desperate as it does superfluous. Interestingly, Sky are advertising The Tunnel under the dubious tagline ‘From the Makers of Broadchurch’, as is somehow that increases its legitimacy (it is indeed part-produced by Kudos, though they are one of many companies at work here). Now “the makers of Broadchurch” have done the unthinkable and remade the superb Scandinavian series The Bridge, except of course it is now called The Tunnel. A corpse is found lying over the dividing line between the UK and France, calling for an Anglo-French co-production between the two police forces.
I have to say, transferring the crime to the Channel Tunnel is a smart move, but it’s about the only one you’ll get here. Nearly everything else is identical – and I mean identical, often scene for scene – to The Bridge. It’s a shame, as I could have coped if the initial idea had inspired Sky Atlantic and French broadcaster Canal+ to make a similar but very different series, but this is just a cookie-cutter remake of the most lazy and trivial.
Because of this, it’s almost impossible to view it without comparing every aspect (quite often unfavourably) with its Swedish/Danish counterpart. Clémence Poésy, whom many will know from the Harry Potter series and Gossip Girl, does a competent job as the near-autistic French detective, even though she looks far too young. She’s not a patch on Sofia Helin, the lead actor in The Bridge. Stephen Dillane, however, is always mesmerising in whatever he does, and he comes off a little better here as the British cop partnered with her, choosing not imitation but sensitive recreation.
If seen in its own right, without any knowledge of the brilliant series it is based on, one could view The Tunnel as a perfectly watchable, if a little stiff, crime procedural. But when you know it’s already done before, and so much better, one can’t help but watch and sigh. This is like a supermarket-own version of your favourite brand of cereal. Edible to a point, occasionally rather tasty, but never quite as satisfying as the real thing.
The Tunnel airs on Wednesday nights this autumn and Christmas on Sky Atlantic HD. Those with Sky subscriptions can catch-up via Sky On Demand.