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Black Sails

So, American television was kind enough to make a pirate series. I wanted to wait until I'd got my pretend pirate show all figured out and posted before I watched it, so I finally got around to seeing the first two episodes last night. Obviously, because it's mine, I think my show is better! But, quite honestly... boy is my show better. If only by virtue of not really existing, but still.

I want to be nice about this show, because it's a pirate show. It has swords, it has sailing ships, it has pirates searching for treasure. Also, pirates! But it's dire. It really, really is. Actually that's a bit unfair. The main problem is that it's two shows cobbled together. The first stars Toby Stephens and Mark Ryan (Nasir!!), and is really good. It's all intrigue and machination, and trekking about the Caribbean. It has unexpected moments of violence, and it has good acting. The other show has lots of people having noisy sex, and speaking almost entirely in four letter words. Not that there's anything wrong with either of those things, especially in a lawless, permissive society made up largely of pirates and thieves, but it's just done so badly. It's a cable show, which means they're allowed sex and swearing, and they've consequently embraced both thoroughly. It's like watching a pirate show made by a thirteen year old boy. The acting in that half of the show is pretty awful too, which makes things a bit weird when the two halves of the plot intersect.

Then there's the ships. I don't blame them for cutting costs. Who am I, fan of crackly old TV that I am - where the ships would have been made out of cardboard, sailing on a pretend sea in a studio - to complain about low budgets and bad FX? It's just that, when you're used to one kind of bad FX, a different kind looks more noticeable maybe? And boy are these ones noticeable. The scenes where the ships are at sea are so obviously computer generated that it's the equivalent of those old shows where spaceships dangled on obvious wires. And the whole thing is shot with some weird filter, which I think is supposed to make it look hot and sunny, but just makes it look like everything and everybody has been painted yellow, and is standing behind a sheet of gauze. Doesn't really help with the realism.

The fighting is very well done. I noticed that Nick Powell is credited as the second unit director, and I recognised a fair few of the names in the stunt credits list as well, so I would expect good fighting. Nobody's let Mark Ryan near a sword yet though sadly. I mean come on. You can't put Mark Ryan in a TV show and then not give him a sword ever. I await with impatience. Or I probably do. I've decided to give another couple of episodes a go, as half of the show is good enough to want to continue watching.

I'm not entirely gripped by the plot, though, I must admit. The central character, played by Toby Stephens, is Captain Flint, the legendarily evil bad-ass, whose character, though dead, haunts Treasure Island. John Silver, a thoroughly nasty type in the original story, is afraid of him, for instance. In this they keep trying to humanise him, and make him out to be not that bad. If you're going to co-opt somebody else's character, don't change him. Otherwise, why not just use a different character to begin with? He does have flashes of madness, but so far he's not nearly bad enough. Come on, show. If you're going to have an infamously evil pirate as your central character, don't chicken out.

And then there's the women. I was quite impressed by how many there were in the credits, but then they spent most of the first episode having sex with people, and then with each other, so I'm a bit dubious about their inclusion. The central two are rather good, but if they could stop taking their clothes off and swearing at everybody, they'd be a lot better.

Still. Nasir!! I may stick with the show for as long as he manages to survive; which won't be long if he doesn't pick up a damned sword sometime soon. I see that the show has been recommissioned for a second season, which is nice for everybody involved, but I haven't looked to see if he'll still be in it. It was such a pleasant surprise to see Mark Ryan's name in the opening credits, as the only actor I knew about beforehand was Toby Stephens. And then suddenly there was Nasir!! (He gets two exclamation marks. Because Nasir!!).

Sorry. Digressing. I really want to like this show. Not just because of Mark Ryan, obviously. Television hasn't given me pirates in ages, and now suddenly there's this. Aspects of it are very enjoyable, but at the moment it's suffering from Cable-TV-itis very badly. The wooden nature of half the cast, and the adolescent nature of the sex and swearing, veer between tedious and hilarious, neither one of which is likely to be what the producers were aiming for. Not terribly impressed by their John Silver, either. I hardly expected a young Brian Blessed (nor wanted one, really. I love his Silver, obviously, but this one is supposed to be more true to the original character. Who's a violent git, not Brian Blessed). But this guy is a cowardly idiot, who so far seems closer to the bad acting camp than the good acting one. He's young still, but I'm having problems seeing him growing up to be the world's most famous pirate. It's nice to see him with two legs though. I wonder if we'll ever see him lose one.

Conclusion: Pirates! Nasir!! But can we wrestle the script away from the work experience boy from now on, and give it back to the professionals please?! And give Mark Ryan a sword, for goodness sakes. *grumble*


Toby Stephens showing a nice hint of psychosis as Flint, but not really being bad enough.

Mark Ryan as Flint's right hand man, Gates. He's changed a bit; but then this is 1715, which means it's six hundred years since Sherwood. And we've all changed a bit in the last six hundred years, let's be honest.

(Not-yet-Long) John Silver.

Blackbeard. She appears to be female solely in order to allow a joke about how she got the name back in episode one. Since then she's done nothing but lurk under a big hat. A mite disappointing.

Eleanor Guthrie. Very promising, when she's not mixed up in the lesbian subplot. Which I wouldn't object to, if it wasn't done in such a blatantly exploitative way. Why are there naked women all over the place, but no naked men? One does have to wonder.

Random shark.

Pussy cat.


Bad guy. He has a scar that switches randomly from one side of his face to the other.

See? Possibly this is what makes him so argumentative.

Piratey flag, viewed through traditional telescope-o-vision.

A ship, on a sea that's fooling nobody.

Sword fight! Very well done. I particularly liked the bit where Flint clobbered the other guy with a cannonball, and blood sprayed all over the camera. A bit gimmicky, but fun. And whilst I'm on the subject of cameras - keep the bloody thing still! Wobbling it about does not make things look cool, and it does not make things look more real. It just makes everything look wobbly. Why can directors never understand this?!

I don't know many of the names yet. There's quite a large black, allegedly West Indian contingent (most people seem to be from South Africa really), who are all very good. Hopefully they'll get more dialogue from now on. If I have my teeth gritted as much for the rest of the series as I did for episodes one and two, it's not going to do me any good at all. Ho hum.


( 14 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
Mar. 22nd, 2014 03:22 pm (UTC)
And I thought you would be happy because Mark Ryan is in it ... hehe ...
We don't have this yet but I'm not sure now I really want to see it ...
Mar. 22nd, 2014 03:41 pm (UTC)
I'm very happy about Mark Ryan! I haven't seen him in forever, and it's nice to have him back on TV. I shouldn't let my rambling put you off. It's got a second series, so it must have done well.
Mar. 22nd, 2014 03:37 pm (UTC)
Ouch, sounds quite painful and sadly dull for a pirate show. I'd heard some good things about it so I was curious, but this sounds pretty dreadful.
Mar. 22nd, 2014 03:45 pm (UTC)
Maybe it's not that bad. It's just that the sex and swearing is so overdone. "Look at us! We're swearing, aren't we cool!" I'm tempted to stick with it, as some of it is good, but I guess I prefer my pirates without the 18-rating.
Mar. 22nd, 2014 03:50 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I imagine so. Starz and other shows on those kind of channels tend to go WAY over the top..every scene is an excuse to strip the clothes off the girls or chop somebody's head off. *sighs* I adored Camelot but it was sort of the "lets have Eva Green naked show". And Rome was just waaay too much for me, and Spartacus's gore had me fleeing in terror from my tv set. The occasional R is about as high as I can take without uncomfortable squirming.

Edited at 2014-03-22 07:51 pm (UTC)
Mar. 22nd, 2014 05:41 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's exactly it. It's as though they've gone through the script, wondering where they can add naked women. "Can we put a naked woman in here? Yes! Will it make sense? Who cares?" There's not much gore (so far) but the naked women are way OTT.

And now I sound like a prude, but I don't think I am. It really does seem crass and silly.
Mar. 22nd, 2014 09:42 pm (UTC)
I couldn't agree more.

Same..I'm pretty okay with it tastefully done but when it looks like the writers are nothing more than a group of leering 13 year old boys it makes me squirm. Plus, the more sex scenes the less sword-fighting. *winks*
Mar. 22nd, 2014 11:57 pm (UTC)
Naked sword-fighting! Or maybe not. ;)
Mar. 23rd, 2014 12:00 am (UTC)
LOL! Don't give the writers any ideas. *winks*
Mar. 22nd, 2014 05:05 pm (UTC)
Oh, dear. You're right - obviously they should have put you in charge and made a much better pirate show! Still, I suppose they're heart's in the right place - pirates! Maybe it will improve a bit??
Mar. 22nd, 2014 05:43 pm (UTC)
I hope so. Pirates! Nasir!! It sounds like an unbeatable combination. If only it hadn't been made by a cable channel.
Mar. 23rd, 2014 11:30 am (UTC)
I hope they get new script writers for series 2 for you. I can't believe Mark Ryan hasn't had a sword fight. I thought that was his job these days; teaching people Robin Hood 1-2-3? Fools. Bah, your show sounds way better. Long John Silver looks goofy. I like the cat though. Is it worth watching for the cat?

Is it by the same people who did 'Camelot'? I could have put up with all the breasts if it had a decent plot, but it was terrible! I am still angry about all those minutes of my life I wasted on it.
Mar. 23rd, 2014 12:15 pm (UTC)
No, they did a show called "Jericho" last, which I'm not familiar with. Part of the reason why I'm getting so frustrated with it is that the plot here actually is good, but the profusion of naked women wiggling their bits at the camera every five minutes is just plain silly. I don't want to sound like the Mail, but it really is a bit much.
Mar. 24th, 2014 12:53 pm (UTC)
Sometimes I wonder if people who like watching naked ladies wiggling start tuning out when they're on screen all the time.
( 14 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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