Spoiler Warning!

This article contains information that could be considered too revealing according to our spoiler policy. Proceed with caution. You can't unsee it!

Reason Minor plot points from the pilot, which as of publication time has not aired yet.

I am Blackbeard. Welcome to Ten Thousand Villages. Photo: Francisco Roman / NBC

Should You Let Crossbones Board Your DVR?

Here's what you need to know about the other pirate drama of 2014.

What Is This Thing?

In the 18th century, honest ships trying to ply the high seas are beset by the scourge of piracy. But! If a new instrument called the chronometer can be perfected, ship captains will be able to determine exactly where they are on the water, and thus have a better chance of outwitting pirates. There's only one thing for it: putting an agent -- Tom Lowe -- undercover, posing as a ship’s surgeon, to make sure the prototype and all related notes and plans get from Jamaica to England. Too bad his ship gets boarded, the inventor gets killed, and Lowe ends up on the island controlled by Blackbeard, who has a total hard-on for this chronometer!

When Is It On?

Fridays at 10 PM on NBC.

Why Was It Made Now?

For some reason we're in the middle of another pirate boom? Or, someone at NBC just saw that a pay-cable network was making a pirate-themed show (that would be Black Sails) and decided to do a cheap network-calibre ripoff and pray for market confusion.

What's Its Pedigree?

You guys...this show was created by Neil Cross (no relation to the titular bones). HE CREATED LUTHER. THIS THING SHARES LUTHER DNA!!! Also responsible are husband-and-wife feature film producing team Walter Parks and Laurie MacDonald, who've previously produced Gladiator, The Ring, and all the Men In Blacks among others. And Blackbeard is played by John Malkovich.


If you like John Malkovich doing the stuff he does, there's a lot of it here. The sets look like a lot of care was taken in dressing them. I appreciate the choice to give the requisite anachronistically sassy ballbuster girl a boyfriend who uses a wheelchair; he doesn't get a ton to do in the pilot, but showing how a person with a physical challenge lives in this very macho environment potentially could be interesting.


But it won't! Nothing about this show is interesting. "But Luther with pirates!" Oh, honey. No. Not even kind of.

The action leaves the ship almost immediately, after which it turns into the story of island politics and economics. The fight over the chronometer design already feels so tiresomely MacGuffiny: when a pilot reminds you of nothing so much as Zero Hour, it's probably not a super-great omen for the show's longevity. Also, I know Malkovich hasn't done a ton of TV, but apparently he's under the impression that Emmys are awarded not in the category of Best Actor but Most Actor. And it/he is exhausting.


I know it's summer and that our options for scripted series are more limited than they were even a week ago. I also know that the prospect of seeing John Malkovich starring in a period series about pirates seems so bizarre that you might be tempted to watch it just to see how compellingly weird it all is. Guys, for real: I get it. But trust me when I tell you, as a friend, this is a dull waste of time that doesn't merit your morbid curiosity about it. I'm not even going to suggest other shows you should watch instead: just go to bed.

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