An off the cuff review of the new TV series CROSSBONES

Saw the first episode of the NBC show CROSSBONES with John Malkovich as Edward Teach (Blackbeard). It’s about piracy in the grand old days of pirates. It seems to be part of this television phenomenon of creating loveable evil people, like Dexter and the television series version of Hannibal Lector or The Blacklist or The Following or…there are a couple of others. Malkovich has never been better, actually, than playing this over-the-top witty, learned villain, constantly threatening hideous cruelties with a lascivious gleam in his eye. When he’s talking the show becomes worthwhile.

Other characters are strongly written, including the physician/spy hero (inspired by Dr Maturin from Patrick O’Brian I assume); dialogue is often surprisingly provocative and intelligent…but having said that–the plot is fatally modern Network tv. They jump the shark in the first episode, really–very improbable turns of story. I mean yeah it’s heroic action about pirates (our hero gets in all kinds of unlikely fights right out of Pirates of the Caribbean, in just this first episode) but its twists are so eye rollingly improbable it makes Captain Blood seem like a naturalistic New Yorker story. There is so much poison (literal poison) spread about it’s surprising the physician can keep track of who he’s poisoning and why.. .

The IDEA of a show about Blackbeard matching wits with a British spy in the days of powdered wigs and gun powdered muzzle-loaders is very appealing and the production values are good. So if you like pirates you may not mind the torturously contrived plotting, the fallacious plot Mcguffin about a special navigation device…and again, Malkovich is so delightful in this, that makes up for much. . .

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