Monday, June 2, 2014

Pilot Review: Crossbones

Crossbones (NBC)
Premiered May 30 at 10pm

Watching this pilot, I was reminded of another NBC offering set several hundred years ago, and I couldn’t recall what it was called. Some quick searching of my archived pilot reviews revealed that it was “Crusoe,” a short-lived fall 2008 pilot that told the story of – you guessed it – Robinson Crusoe. That was a rather isolating, self-contained story about living on an island, whereas this ambitious offering involves an entire group of pirates as regular characters and some rather direct ties to the English throne. It’s surprising to me that NBC would offset a show with a big name like John Malkovich in the lead role and push it off to summer, but I also think that this was just the latest ill-advised broadcast network endeavor into period television, something that just isn’t sustainable. Unfortunately, this show also isn’t very good, featuring a disappointing performance from Malkovich, who should have been able to chew scenery easily yet doesn’t do so consistently, and a rather dull storyline. I remember Richard Coyle as the cameraman in “5 Days of War” and Simon on “Covert Affairs,” and while I like him, I don’t think he has the gravitas to play an undercover agent of the British Empire posing as a doctor and decoder. Fletch’s presence detracts from the seriousness of the show, whatever existed in the first place, while Selma is far too cartoonish. Overall, this pilot was far too dense and frantic to merit a second viewing on my part.

How will it work as a series? That’s what’s hard to figure out, though I suppose Lowe spotting the Spanish conspiring with one of the pirates indicates that this won’t be limited simply to Blackbeard’s story, and his purpose there will be multifold. It still seems like a narrow scope and a well likely to run dry sooner rather than later.
How long will it last? I didn’t think long, but then I read about the ratings. To think that NBC has premiered three enduring summer successes in just one week seems like a stretch, and I think this is both the likeliest to wane and also the likeliest to attract a niche audience. At this point, I’d say it’s a toss-up, but things are looking pretty good.

Pilot grade: C

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