David Tennant, who many know as the tenth incarnation of Dr. Who, was the star of ITV’s Broadchurch and now leads Fox’s adaptation, Gracepoint, premiering Thursday (Oct. 2). Even though the show has yet to make its debut, 13 percent of fans already think Tennant’s character is guilty.
That statistic is based on Fox’s second-screen experience, #SuspectEveryone, where viewers can play along with the game to collect clues, offer their own theories and identify the guilty party by the series’ end.
Gracepoint is being promoted as a 10-part mystery event. Part of the show’s promise is that the crime introduced in episode one will be solved by episode 10, rounding out the story and appeasing mystery fans in the process. But it also gives the broadcaster the perfect opportunity to encourage live viewing for eager armchair detectives, offering a place for them to try out their crime-solving techniques as the show progresses.
Fox’s version of Broadchurch follows somewhat closely to the original plot, but strays enough to hint that neither the clues nor the villain may not be the same as in the original. The U.S. version is set in a small town in northern California where a young boy is found dead and two detectives (Tennant and Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn) are called in to find suspects. Pretty soon, nearly everyone in the town seems suspicious as secrets come to light and clues are revealed.
The crime drama is produced by Shine America, who worked with Fox to create #SuspectEveryone, a second-screen experience that resembles an online detective’s notebook.
Vivi Zigler, president of Shine 360° and digital at Shine America, says that a primary motivation behind the #SuspectEveryone experience was the intensity of Broadchurch‘s U.K. fans. According to Zigler, there was such a positive reaction to the show in the UK that it inspired her to take the show’s social presence further in its U.S. premiere.
“When they did Broadchurch, it was this huge phenomenon – it got huge ratings and the whole country was involved. The fans themselves went crazy in social, but it wasn’t something the broadcaster was generating for the show,” said Zigler. “That gave us a very obvious heads up.”
So Shine America began working on a way to get the fans involved that would encourage them to follow along with the show through social platforms. #SuspectEveryone became a marking touch point, displaying visuals and character portraits around the tagline almost as mug shots and asking fans to play along as rookie detectives. Weeks before the premiere, social posts began to explain characters’ relationships and give reasons to suspect them. For example, even Anna Gunn’s character, Detective Ellie Miller, had a connection to the boy found on the beach:
— GracepointFOX (@GracepointFOX) September 29, 2014
“As I talked to people, one thing I was struck by was that almost everyone said some variation of: ‘As I watched, I wanted to write down the clues as they appeared in the show,’” said Zigler.
So Fox and Shine America came together to create a detective’s notebook of sorts to provide an outlet for these clues. The result is SuspectEveryone.com.
Because the show has yet to premiere, the site currently introduces the world of Gracepoint, putting faces to names, and allowing fans to offer their initial judgments of the victim’s family and friends. As the show progresses, the site will collect the clues from each episode, ask viewers for their opinions and encourage people to vote on who seems like the guilty party. That could change every episode, depending on what clues are revealed. Zigler says her team deconstructed every episode, every script and every line of dialogue in order to build a database that aligned every possible suspect with every clue.
“We consider it a resource,” said Robin Benty, senior director of digital scripted brand at Fox. “Each week, this site is updated with the evidence we learn with each episode – all the facts, and the interpretation of the facts – anything we know in the show.”
Each week’s episode will focus mainly on one new suspect, and #SuspectEveryone will update toward the end of that episode’s East Coast airing, adding the clues that have come up and asking fans to offer their thoughts on the new information. Viewers are then encouraged to vote and go to the site through social pages and on-air promotions. As the series goes on, more questions will pop up and more voting opportunities will arise, asking for fan feedback on why characters acted a certain way or asking whether they believed a suspect’s alibis.
“We’re presenting the facts, you provide the conversation.” -Robin Benty
Fox will then take that viewer feedback and highlight fan theories as well as post the most recent poll numbers, pointing out who may be guilty, lying or hiding something. Digiboards will also feature that week’s suspect, determined by poll numbers.
Of course, Fox is hoping these conversations take place each week after fans have watched the show live.
“We’re presenting the facts, you provide the conversation,” said Benty. “We want people to have the most recent information. As soon as the show ends, we want them to go talk.”