One of the last of the new fall programs to be broadcast, NBC’s Crusoe [Fridays, 8/7C] is allegedly a radical retelling of Daniel Defoe’s classic novel, though it fudges on his background [slave owners not being particularly well thought of these days] and utilizes the “Lost Method” of storytelling.
Here, Crusoe [Philip Winchester] is a newly married inventor/weaver who is off to the Americas to purchase equipment and materials to speed up his production and make him and his new wife, Susannah [Anna Walton] rich – or at least filthy, stinking well off. When his ship is wrecked by a combination of storm and rocky island coastline, he is the only survivor.
When a number of cannibals arrive on the island to sacrifice one of their number to the gods, Crusoe rescues him and, because he couldn’t possibly begin to pronounce the man’s name, he dubs him Friday [Tongayi Chirisa]. It just so happens that Friday is no savage – he speaks a dozen languages and has other knowledge and skills [archery among them].
When a band of pirates comes ashore in search of treasure – following a map tattooed on the back of one of them – things get very dicey, very quickly. Fortunately, both Crusoe and Friday are inventive and capable of thinking on their feet. It doesn’t hurt that Crusoe has plundered the remains of his ship and created a very comfortable refuge for himself – and some nasty surprises for unwanted guests.
Crusoe’s story is told from his point of view, in his present – but his life before the shipwreck is told in flashback. Thus we watch Crusoe trying to deal with the pirates in his present, and learn about the horrors of his childhood and the joys of his new marriage in flashbacks that are sparked by events in his present. It’s all very cool – and informative – but it doesn’t lead to amazing discoveries of either natural or supernatural natures. It’s all just glorious swashbuckling fun.
The show’s cinematography is amazing, though it helps to have a beautiful island to provide exquisite scenery. The main cast members are more than up to the swashbuckling and show themselves capable of carrying the darker, more dramatic moments. It seems a bit odd to put such a show on Fridays, but it offers a bit of pure entertainment, and that might help it survive TV’s dead zone. While there will undoubtedly be a certain amount of continuity, I suspect that we will be able to watch individual episodes without having to know every little detail of what has gone before – which also makes it easy to enjoy.
Final Grade: B