May 292014

CrossbonesI hope that people like pirates because Crossbones is coming out roughly a month after Black Sails finished.

Both shows are set near the end of the Golden Age of Piracy (1650-1730). During the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), Britain had unleashed thousands of privateers, essentially legalized pirates, to raid Spanish merchant ships. Privateers were popular because they were much cheaper than paying for the expansion of the Royal Navy, and all captured cargoes were sold to the British government, which turned a nice profit re-selling the goods. When the war ended, the British government cancelled the privateers’ licenses, presuming that the privateers would happily return to crewing on merchant ships. However, a surplus of sailors on the job market led to low wages. Faced with few job prospects and aware that the thriving cross-Atlantic trade offered a wealth of targets, many of the ex-privateers adjusted their business model and became full-fledged pirates, attacking ships from every nation. The cargoes were sold at Nassau, on the island of New Providence in the Bahamas, which was claimed, but not actually governed, by Britain.

Crossbones is the vision of Neil Cross, who worked on Spooks (MI-5 in the United States) and created Luther. I have not seen Spooks, but I am watching Luther now, and I am loving its moral complexity, where the lead characters wrestle with the gap between the law and their own moral codes. Given his track record, Cross seems the perfect choice to produce a show about a republic of pirates.

John Molkovich plays Edward Teach, the unofficial leader of the pirate colony at Nassau. Richard Coyle is Tom Lowe, an English secret agent sent in to the pirate republic to kill Blackbeard, the leader of the pirates, so presumably the assassin will become conflicted as he grows to admire the pirate leader. To be honest, the plot sounds a little dull, but then again, I was dubious when I heard of a show about a chemistry teacher who starts making meth when he learns he has cancer, so I will keep an open mind.

Black Sails was fun but far from amazing, so there is room for another pirate show. My main concern is that it is shown on NBC, rather than one of the cable networks. I realized that I don’t watch any shows on the broadcast networks, aside from Agents of Shield, and I gave up after a few episodes because it was painfully bland, although still better than Smallville. That…that was bad.

I am curious to see if John Malkovich will be like Steve Buscemi and so many other actors limited to supporting roles in films, and create a standout character on TV. Anyway, we will find out soon, since Crossbones premieres on May 30.