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September 2, 2015

Crusoe: Rum and Gunpowder (series premiere)

by Jason Hughes, posted Oct 18th 2008 8:38AM
I'm reading all over the place that this is a thirteen-part series. That sounds very ... British. In fact, it's a pretty damned promising idea. Imagine if more television shows in the US were allowed to have one season or even half a season and then be done. If they wanted to take a real-time approach it could run twenty-eight seasons! I wonder if this will inspire comparisons to Lost.

I figure a lot of people, in fact most people, won't have read the source material. So their idea of people stranded on an island is going to either be Lost or Gilligan's Island. If we're lucky, they'll stretch so far as Lord of the Flies. Certainly this is an ambitious project, promising us swashbuckling excitement. And yet even though the cold opening featured a potential dramatic rescue and gunfire, when the credits started I realized it hadn't raised my heart rate a bit. In fact, it was possibly the dullest action scene I'd ever seen.

At the time we joined the action, Robinson had been on the island for quite awhile. Time enough to have built an extravagant treetop house complete with zip lines and a series of traps throughout the island that would have made "The Others" envious. I don't even think the Howells could have financed a setup as fancy as Crusoe's.

There's a pretty good pedigree of acting talent in those nothing-like-Lost flashbacks with Sean Bean (The Lord of the Ring's) and Sam Neill, who most recently portrayed a corrupt Cardinal on Showtime's The Tudors. In fact, Sam Neill seems to have found a nice niche for himself in these period pieces. Too bad that same quality of acting didn't come through in the "current" sequences.

From Philip Winchester's overly giddy performance in the title role to the bad acting that ran like wildfire through the pirates, it's hard to say that Friday may be the best actor on the island. And every time they cut from the island to the past with Bean and/or Neill, it only proved that much more where the consummate actors were.

Things picked up dramatically with the arrival of the second crew tracking the pirates who'd captured Crusoe. Suddenly, the action sequences were more compelling and I found myself rooting for Robin and Friday. Hell, even the script was better. Maybe this inspired the actors to up the ante in their own performances as well.

While I enjoyed the flashback sequences, I hope there's a big plan in place to connect them to the castaway saga in a more satisfying way perhaps than the book was able to muster. Otherwise, it will be a bleak finale indeed.

Washed-Up Debris
  • I never would have guessed that Johnny Depp's portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow was actually the prototypical pirate. Apparently he nailed it.
  • Who's keeping Friday's hair so nicely trimmed, and his face so clean-shaven? And now with his dapper jacket, he's going to be just impossible to live with. You know it'll all go straight to his head.
  • If someone was trying to smoke me out of my treehouse, I wouldn't hunker down by the vents the smoke is coming through and breathe deeply.
  • Props to the location shots. This island looks way more beautiful than the one from Lost. Actually, it could be the same island if you think about it. After all, this is way before Dharma would have found it.
This may actually turn out to be a fun 12 or 13 week ride (I'm still not sure if this counts as one or two of the thirteen episodes). I do hope that they stick to their guns and let the story end at thirteen. Take a cue from some of those amazing short series in the UK. Sometimes a tight focused short run is so much better than a second 22-episode season of Prison Break. Just look at how much tightening up the final run of Lost has improved that show.

In fact, next week's episode, which looks to focus more on Crusoe and Friday without so much interference from outsiders, looks much better. I could even see the potential for a longer show with more contained pieces like that looks to be. So, how's that for a review in which the reviewer pretty much changes his own mind throughout the course of it? How about you?

Do you like Crusoe?
Oh hell yeah!134 (38.8%)
It's okay105 (30.4%)
I'll watch it if nothing else is on59 (17.1%)
It was terrible.47 (13.6%)

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The show was simply terrible. Having read the book over the summer and liking it immensely but finding the ending a bit flat, there are numerous inconsistencies with this story over the book. Really, the only thing that remains the same is that there is a guy named Robinson Crusoe and he's on an island...that's about it.

He wasn't married till years after he made it back, Friday didn't appear until roughly 23 years on the island. The notion of treasure seeking pirates is absurd as is the Spanish army who are after them. The idea that there is some gold treasure there, while plausible in a fantasy world, has no backing in the actual text save for the money that Robinson collects from the ship before it completely breaks up. And women on the island are never seen, nor spoken of, except in brief passing when mention of the savages/cannibals comes about.

I, for one, will never watch this show again as it is an insult to the late, great Defoe and his genius.

October 21 2008 at 11:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I could almost believe the dental hygiene of the pirates, but the perfect teeth/complexion/body of Judy was a little beyond belief. Not that I'm complaining. Hard to take her seriously, though, as a pirate. As for the series as a whole, it was OK. It's gonna have to 'Wow' me, however, to keep me watching.

October 20 2008 at 11:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I might be in the minority here, but I enjoyed the pilot. Sure, the writing could have been better, the pirates were obviously ripped from PoTC, and those flashback transitions were incredibly ADD-like and annoying... but it wasn't half bad. The acting was decent (especially Sean Bean and Sam Neill), and the cinematography was quite beautiful. I'm looking forward to seeing where the series goes.

October 20 2008 at 6:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

>> "Imagine if more television shows in the US were allowed to have one season or even half a season and then be done."

The show Daybreak was a 13 episode series to fill the mid-season gap in Lost, and it bombed so bad that they took it off the air, showing the last half of the series via the web.

I actually really enjoyed the show and figured that the network would have at least stuck with it for another 6 weeks.

October 18 2008 at 7:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Agree with you there Morjana...the show was awful. I love a good adventure and was looking forward to a mindless good show...but having a shirtless guy with a perfect bod, white teeth and Orlando Bloom quips...it distracted me. Although I will say that Friday was at least interesting...how about dumping the Playgirl model and putting Friday at the helm?

October 18 2008 at 5:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Morjana Coffman

Oh...bad. Very bad. Very, very bad.

Just to show how bad...Robinson went shirtless within the first 15 minutes.

Granted, Philip Winchester has a nice bod...

October 18 2008 at 4:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Things picked up dramatically with the arrival of the second crew tracking the pirates who'd captured Crusoe. Suddenly, the action sequences were more compelling and I found myself rooting for Robin and Friday."

This is when I stopped watching it, looks like I should have watched more. Sam Neil and Sean Bean are awesome, was hopping to see more of them. I will probably watch the rest online to see what I missed.

October 18 2008 at 4:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I for one really enjoyed the episode. I tried not to take it too seriously and just have fun...that I did.

October 18 2008 at 2:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Totally agree about the Sean Bean and Sam Neill flashbacks. 100% better in the acting category! They were the best part of the whole episode! Too bad they only cast them so they could draw on their names to get people to watch....then just relegate them to nano-second scenes.

The "Island" setting is actually filmed in the Seychelles, east of mainland Africa, northeast of the island of Madagascar.

October 18 2008 at 2:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was just thinking that with Holly Hunter, Anna Paquin, and Harvey Keitel all haveing series we had "The Piano" tv trifecta, all was missing was Sam Neill to complete the set, and then I saw his face in the credits.

October 18 2008 at 11:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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