‘Black Sails’ premiere review: Does Starz’s new pirate drama sink or swim?

Black Sails -On Saturday night, Starz took a big risk. They not only decided to air a program at a time that is often considered to be a TV graveyard, but it is one that is both pretty expensive, and also in a genre (pirates) that is reasonably untested for a modern TV audience. The last time that we saw a pirate show, it was that terrible “Pirate Master” on CBS that lasted a few weeks before it walked the plank.

Black Sails” is luckily a much better series that “Pirate Master.” It is dark, it is moody, and it has some great performances throughout. It is also clearly done by the same network that did “Spartacus.” There are a few moments in here where it feels obvious that the show is pushing the envelope just for the sake of doing so, and we’ve often felt that the network gets a little too gratuitous. However, these are pirates, so we suppose in that sense it is valid.

The series touches on a variety of interesting characters in world that is both part real and part fiction, including Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) and John Silver (Luke Arnold). The show introduced us to the politics of this world, and how honor and duty are portrayed through the eyes of pirates and captain in a pretty lawless place. Also, it gave you a sense that this is not always the same sort of glamorous world that pirate movies have suggested over the years.

At over 65 minutes, the first of the show’s eight first-season episodes was long, but also stuffed full of stories, action, and somewhat-traditional swashbuckling. We imagine that if you enjoy the high seas and a little bit of history, this show is right up your alley. The biggest problem in the end may just come down to preference. For whatever reason, pirates have never really been that much of an appeal to us save for jokes and viral videos, and maybe that is because we like seeing a greater variety of settings. With that in mind, the show did not fully convert us, but the acting and the gorgeous scenery helped to make up for a few moments when we were started to get a tad listless. If you like sword-fights, traitors, and some dark subject matter that other networks cannot bring you, than this is probably a ship to stay aboard. Grade: B.

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Photo: Starz

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