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Does Herc Say Michael Bay’s Starz Pirate Series BLACK SAILS Is A Sinking Ship Or Smooth Sailing??

Published at: Jan. 25, 2014, 1:46 a.m. CST

I am – Hercules!!

A newStarz hourlong created by writer-producers Robert Levine (“Harper’s Island,” “Human Target,” “Touch”) and Jonathan E. Steinberg (“Human Target”), “Black Sails” is a prequel following the adventures of J. Flint, Billy Bones, and a young, two-legged John Silver in the West Indies of 1715, two decades before the events depicted in Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.”

Michael Bay (“Transformers”) lends his name as executive producer but leaves the directing to others, including Neil Marshall (“Dog Solidiers,” “The Descent”).

Marshall also directed an excellent episode of “Game of Thrones,” a fact that illustrates, I think, that good writers are more important than good directors when it comes to this sort of enterprise. There are no characters here as compelling as the Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons or Targaryans. And “Sails” is certainly not in the same league as Starz’ best series to date, the late, lamented “Boss.”

“Black Sails” can get way too talky but it’s by no means the worst series I’ve seen this season. The acting is generally decent. One can learn how the pirate trade might have worked back in the day. Hot lesbians get naked and have sex. There’s a bloody sword fight.

And, if you’re wary of investment, Starz has already ordered a second season.

HuffPost TV says:

... tedious … wants to inject some complexity into its sand-and-swords premise, but the drama runs aground of ambitions it doesn't have the skills to fulfill. … a sodden and occasionally infuriating mixture of cable-TV tropes that takes a perfectly good premise and allows it to lurch around in bewildering and unpromising ways …

Hitfix says:

... settles into landlocked tedium … it's all flash and no substance, and the flash fades pretty quickly, no doubt right around the point the production accountant realized just how much it costs to film extended sequences with ships in water.

The New York Times says:

... reasonably interesting but not particularly fun or involving. Sometimes you just want a good yo-ho-ho. This is not to make the show sound more scholarly than it is. …

The Los Angeles Times says:

... gets off to a somewhat rocky start. …

The San Francisco Chronicle says:

... Yo-ho humdrum. … Viewers don't expect much realism, and they don't want to have to think too much about what they're watching. They figure there will be sex and nudity, blood and violence. "Black Sails" has most of that, but there isn't enough action in the first four episodes. If you give us a pirate series, we want to see ships going at it on the high seas.

The Washington Post says:

... There’s a whole lot else going on in just the first episode, with too many indistinguishable characters; at times “Black Sails” feels like it wants to be taken seriously as a complicated, premium cable drama (a la “Game of Thrones”). At other times, it feels more like cheesier, more niche material (a la “Spartacus”). I’ll watch a few more episodes, but walking the plank seems more tempting. Grade: C- …

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:

... entertaining enough but not nearly as addictive as "Spartacus" came to be through its first season; perhaps in time that will change. …

The Boston Herald says:

... might turn out to be a voyage of the damned, but you won’t find better company. …

TV Guide says:

... During a climactic crisis in which he's left to die of exposure, Haskell muses, "The worst part is how time slows." He could just as well have been talking about the middle section of Black Sails' first season … becomes stubbornly becalmed by its landlocked third and fourth hours, as tiresome wheeling and dealing triggers a bout of Restless Sea Legs Syndrome in the impatient viewer. …

The Hollywood Reporter says:

... It's quite a world that Steinberg and Levine have created. More characters show up as the episodes roll on, giving Black Sails a more dense, complicated structure (which is good). Even after four episodes, however, it's hard to tell what you're getting with Black Sails. …

Variety says:

... never quite takes off, developing into a tired treasure hunt with indifferent casting and stock characters. …

9 p.m. Saturday. Starz.

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