Dang NBC. How do you got your finger on the pulse so hard of what we want as viewers of summer television? Pirates? I mean, everyone knows the best television airs on Friday nights in the summertime. When all the cool kids are at home. That is just plain fact. But to just be like, "It’s time the world and its children and families learned of the legendary pirate king Blackbeard, and that time is now"? Well suffice to say that it’s no surprise NBC is Peacock of the walk. But will Crossbones be any good? Run up the colors and read on to find out!
Huh okay okay so is this like a spin-off of the hit Fox show Bones? Come on, tell me! What is Crossbones?
Um, what ISN’T Crossbones? Basically me hearties, this piece presents John Malkovich as Edward "Blackbeard" Teach, famed pirate in charge of a secret island called Santa Compana. It’s 1729. Blackbeard—who in this case is bald, with a white goatee—reigns over a bunch of sandy tan dudes who love stealing riches and killing those who would keep them from taking all the booty ever. Word gets around about an invention called a "chronometer," which is like a mechanical GPS and all kinds of seamen want it because it will change the face of nautical travel forever or something. Guess what, though: British spy Tom Lowe (Richard Coyle; Coupling, Covert Affairs) has been tasked with protecting this device AND assassinating Blackbeard. While undercover as a ship surgeon, he is taken hostage by some of 'Beard’s boys, but not before damaging the device and memorizing necessary stuff about it. So yeah, Lowe makes himself too essential to be killed and in the process learns of a huge scheme against the Crown. What should he do, even?
Avast though, what salty sea dogs lead the cursed crew of Crossbones?
Yargh, the creators of the series are Neil Cross (bones), James V. Hart, Amanda Welles. Cross is the jaunty Brit behind Luther who also wrote for Spooks and Dr. Who. The story draws from the real-life actual book The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodard, and David Slade (Breaking Bad, Awake, Hannibal) directed the pilot.
Um so like, yo ho, when does Crossbones set sail for our living rooms?
Crossbones pillages its way onto the airwaves on Friday, May 30 at 10pm on NBC. The first season is 10 episodes strong—and the product of a straight-to-series commitment. Originally planned as a midseason replacement, Crossbones was eventually pushed back to the summer... which is always suspicious, but not necessarily damning.
What types of viewers will walk the plank for Crossbones?
History buffs, and people who are appreciative of something a little different from traditional television subject matter. Look, pirate stories are like Westerns: Either you’re all about them, or you couldn’t give a care at all. There’s also a spy element to Crossbones, however, so any spy-completionists might be into this puppy. Think Black Sails plus Turn. You know what, here's a test: "I suspect God is a clockmaker. He wound creation up and now he sits back and watches it unwind." If you A) enjoy this sort of dialogue as delivered by John Malkovich while he's dressed like Game of Thrones' Red Viper and seated before a mass of plundered goods, then this show is for you. If you B) just became angry at this pseudo-Rust Cohle-ism, then maybe look elsewhere.
Well shiver me timbers, what makes Crossbones work?
First and foremost, the dramatic violence and decadence of pirate life. Obviously John Malkovich is great to watch in anything, and his off-kilter grandiosity works perfectly in the role of a brutal, esoteric pirate king. Also, the show's locations are so beautiful that they kind of remind you how much of TV is set indoors. The rule-free island empire of Blackbeard is a fun playground, with a lot of potential that's ripe for scheming and daring-do.
What won't we like about Crossbones, ye landlubbing scallywag?
Well, truth be told, pirates are still a little cartoonish. Whereas Starz's Black Sails has the benefit of swearing, nudity, and characters swearing while engaged in nudity, Crossbones has to double down on network-safe violence to feel relevant. The costumes range from accurate to "pajamas doubling as historical clothes," and I have a sneaking suspicion that we may not leave the island of Santa Compana, a.k.a. the worst part about Black Sails. Also, though John Malkovich is touted as the star, the real central character is Richard Coyle's Tom Lowe, and his screen time far outpaces Blackbeard's. Dishonesty like this might work in the pirate world, but give it to us straight, NBC: Is Malkovich in this a bunch, or are we mostly dealing with the less-exciting citizens of Santa Compana?
Well, should I watch it or not?
Ehhhhhhhh....yeah, however, you should know it’s a little dumb. But come on, watch it.
Can I see a trailer?
Oh wait, here ye go...
SORRY HERE IT IS FOR REAL THIS TIME:
What should I drink with my viewing of Crossbones?
Rum mixed with saltwater and shark blood, sipped from a coconut.
Crossbones premieres Friday, May 30 at 10pm on NBC.
AIRED ON 8/2/2014
Season 1 : Episode 9