Cruising with Crusoe

Posted Sunday, October 19, 2008, 5:58 PM

When Pirates of the Caribbean was first released, despite widely held expectation of its failure (Pirate movies never succeed) but then its unexpected success, there was then a fear that we would be suddenly inundated with Pirate movies, bringing us right back to the position of having unsuccessful dreck littering the entertainment world again. This didn't happen.

There has, however, been a surprising rise in epic television entertainment, almost cinematic in its scope and quality, with exotic locations, long story arcs, large casts, and spectacular visual effects out the wazoo. Many of these I have come to enjoy very much: Heroes, Lost, Sarah Connor Chronicles, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, and lots more (some of which I don't watch, some I do).

Well, now the Pirates of the Caribbean influence has hit TV. A UK show that has been commissioned by the US, based (very very loosely) on the story of Robinson Crusoe, has debuted, and you know what? I like it.

Crusoe is about a man who has been shipwrecked on a tropical island, alone but for a single "local" who he names "Friday". The first episode concerns the island being discovered by Pirates after a buried treasure. That should give you the level of adventure it's going for. Not serious or believable in any way, but still a good adventure action drama, it kept my attention, entertained me to the end, and bode well for a fun series. It's been commissioned for thirteen episodes, guaranteed, which I don't think it will falter over.

Ratings in the US lately have started to yoyo, due partly to crappy scheduling practices, and partly to increased use of downloading as a means to watch a show, bypassing advertising. With torrents, official streaming video, TiVo, and episodes available on iTunes, there is a wider choice publicly available for viewing, and many are taking them up on it. Despite low ratings, the Networks are recognising that these alternative options make up the rest of their audience. They aren't switching off or over, they're remaining loyal to their favourite shows, but in their favourite viewing format. The only problem is, the revenue stream from advertising has to be maintained to keep the shows coming. Here's hoping they can figure out how to handle it so that we can continue to enjoy epic TV.

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