Mid-season TV pick-ups

February 6, 2014 7:01 pm0 commentsViews: 13

Smooth Sailing for Black Sails

The cable network Starz has tried to adapt and reinterpret classic novels in the past. Remember Camelot (2011), starring the infectious Jamie Campbell Bower and fabulous Eva Green? Perhaps it would be better not to. The almost universally panned show seemed to have all of the right pieces — great costumes, cast and cinematography — and yet, it didn’t come together into a cohesive, compelling whole. Starz is now set to redeem itself, and then some, with Black Sails.

The imaginative prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s eternally popular Treasure Island was renewed for a second season before the pilot even aired this January, owing to a staggeringly positive critical reception. Perhaps it is helpful that Michael Bay of Transformers fame is at the helm as one of the executive producers Starz also has more practice under its belt in making literary dramas come to life on screen. Whatever the reason, Black Sails is truly a stunner.

The first episode explodes, literally,  on the screen as Captain Flint (Toby Stevens) and his crew of pirates take over an English ship and take in John Silver (Luke Arnold) as a cook. Silver is a dynamic character from the start; he is introduced to the audience, hiding below deck while the rest of his shipmates are massacred by Flint’s crew. However his cowardice is offset with cleverness, wit and beautiful curly black hair.

Once on board Captain Flint’s vessel, Silver is given his first lesson about the pirate code: equality. No one on board gets special treatment in any way. Everyone from captain to scullery boy gets the same cut of meat. Because, as Silver will learn later, on a pirate ship there is a chance for everyone to become “king.” Without set social and political hierarchies, the structure of the ship depends on the chosen cooperation of each of the pirates on board. Mutiny, betrayal and humanist philosophy enter the story early and offer the writers plenty of fascinating narrative possibilities to work with.

If the show sounds a bit obtuse or overly-intellectual, don’t worry. It pairs its unique, challenging characters and its philosophical themes with foul language, gratuitous violence and sex, usually involving prostitutes and/or orgies. All of which are delivered in a cinematic aesthetic that is at once vividly beautiful (think silk dresses and glorious ocean-scapes) and dirty (everybody, except the gorgeous and powerful Eleanor Guthrie, is covered in a layer or two of grime).

Check out Black Sails on Starz every Saturday at 9 p.m.


Intelligence is a smart procedural

CBS opened the new year with their procedural drama Intelligence. Lost’s Josh Holloway stars as Gabriel, a CIA agent with a supercomputer microchip implanted in his brain. The chip allows him to access satellites, the internet and recreate still images of past events as a method of crime solving. As a highly valuable asset who can be unpredictable and unreliable, he is assigned a bodyguard, played by Meghan Ory, to keep him in check.

Intelligence premiered Jan. 14 on CBS following NCIS, bringing in 17 million viewers, a near record for a mid-season premiere. The pilot episode focused on Gabriel and his team as they tried to find a kidnapped member of CyberCom, the company that developed Gabriel’s microchip. Meanwhile Gabriel struggles with recent events concerning his wife, a suspected terrorist, who is assumed dead after one of her alleged attacks.

The first episode delivered all of the right action punches, beautiful scenery and graphic simulations of Gabriel’s computer brain perfectly, while setting up the show for plenty of backstory in later episodes. Because of Gabriel’s potentially dead terrorist wife, there is not much romantic chemistry between him and Ory’s character, but the show feels a little more focused that way. The tone of the show is very familiar to CSI and NCIS fans, so CBS did well to premiere it behind their hit show.

The second episode, however, did not fare so well. Moving to the 10 p.m. Monday slot, Intelligence drew in only a little over 6 million viewers. While reporters at the Television Critics Association press conference were concerned about this extreme drop, executive producer Michael Seitzman didn’t fret; CBS and the producers seemed confident that the show would eventually find its feet with the proper audience. The second episode wrapped up the mysterious circumstances concerning Gabriel’s wife – too quick of a wrap up, but perhaps the producers and writers have possible story lines written to bring her back in. At least it doesn’t seem like they are writing themselves into a hole.

Intelligence may not be at the top of the Nielson charts five episodes in, but this procedural drama has promise. A perfect combination of NCIS: LA and Covert Affairs with the star appeal of Josh Holloway and tech-y “what if’s,” Intelligence has the potential to become an action-filled Monday night staple.