Friday 8 p.m.
2.5 out of 5 Stars
Diverging from the usual sitcom or reality show, NBC has taken a risk by picking up the 13-part TV series “Crusoe.”
Based on Daniel Defoe’s 1719 novel “Robinson Crusoe,” the show follows the famed castaway of the same name (Philip Winchester, “Flyboys”) who struggles to survive on an exotic and desolate island. With help from his native friend Friday (relative newcomer Tongai Arnold Chirisa) and his dog Dundee, Crusoe manages to escape a group of greedy pirates, Spanish soldiers and cannibals. The only thing that keeps him from going insane is his desire to return to his wife and family in England.
The show won’t appeal to most teens and college students, as it’s more appropriate for parents and their kids. Its action-adventure themes, clean humor and romantic elements will appeal to viewers young and old. Mischievous kids will envy Crusoe’s tricked-out treehouse filled with booby traps and homemade contraptions, including a catapult that launches coconuts. Adults will enjoy the action sequences and plot points about Crusoe’s relationships with his wife and friends without worrying about offensive subject matter showing up in front of the kids. But the show won’t appeal to the young adult demographic because of its corny dialogue and its inconvenient time-slot on Friday night. Young people would probably rather watch grittier and more current action-adventure shows like “Lost” and “Heroes.”
Despite its struggle to appeal to TV’s most sought-after demographic, “Crusoe” does a good job balancing multiple genres while presenting the story in an original way. Throughout the pilot episode, characters’ pasts are revealed through their own personal flashbacks. The show explains how Crusoe met Friday via a flashback, and Crusoe’s thoughts reveal how he ended up stranded on the island.
The story of “Robinson Crusoe” came long before adventure movies like “Pirates of the Caribbean,” but the TV adaptation appears to have used “Pirates” as inspiration to make it more appealing to today’s viewers. Lynch (Jonathan Pienaar, “Blood Diamond”), the ringleader of the dimwitted group of pirates, seems to be based on Johnny Depp’s iconic performance as the offbeat Jack Sparrow. Unfortunately for Pienaar, he lacks Depp’s charm and doesn’t look half as good in black eyeliner. In addition to similar performances, the show sensationalizes action sequences and provides a hot pirate love interest for Crusoe. What happened to missing his wife? It’s doubtful that Defoe intended his main character to be a sex symbol with a penchant for blowing things up.
Unlike the vast majority of shows on network TV, “Crusoe” is a family-friendly show that can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. Despite its campy script and sensationalized elements, the show is a refreshing concept in the midst of countless formulated shows.