Crusoe: Premiere Review
Crusoe: Premiere Review
Crusoe.  I get it.  NBC wants an exotic adventure series, something that can appeal to kids and adults.  It's a worthy endeavor, though one difficult to pull off.  There is certainly a place for old-fashioned entertainment in a network landscape increasingly cramped with high-concept modern fare, but you have to nail the execution.  NBC did not.  Crusoe (whose two-hour premiere airs tonight at 8pm) is based on the classic novel Robinson Crusoe, about a man stranded for decades on an island in the middle of nowhere.  It isn't a deserted island, however, as pirates and cannibals are bound to show up and wreak havoc.  Crusoe is an example of a network having a solid idea but not knowing what to do with it.  Unless, that is, they want to appeal to 12-year-old boys and only 12-year-old boys.

This is a show I would have watched religiously while in middle school.  In the two-hour Crusoe premiere, we are introduced to a host of crusty pirates (including a hot lady pirate), a reformed cannibal named Friday, nutty Spanish soldiers, and a wide array of crafty gadgets created by Robinson himself.  These gadgets include a hamster wheel that traverses a canyon, a rope elevator, and a six-orange juice squeezer.  The gadgets are cool, but I would have thought they were much cooler before hitting puberty. 

Crusoe would work if it only embraced its own cheesiness.  Unfortunately, the show gets side-tracked by unnecessary dramatic scenes, especially the flashbacks.  There a lot of deaths in the first two hours of Crusoe, and they are played mostly for laughs, which is interesting because they are intercut with overly emotional flashback scenes.  Crusoe fails to pick a tone and stay with it, and it makes the viewing experience jumbled and confusing. 

If Crusoe were to get rid of the flashbacks, and embrace an old serial-type nature, NBC could be on to something.  When you have your protagonist chased by pirates on a beautiful island, being helped by an ex-cannibal friend and the use of craftily constructed gadgets, the potential is there.  Unfortunately, Crusoe often gets in the way of its own good time. 

Sean Bean and Sam Neill both play important parts in Crusoe's flashbacks, as Robinson's father and friend of the family, respectively.  For two esteemed actors, they are given little to do, and I'm surprised they're involved at all.  The flashbacks are by far the least interesting part of the show, and I can't imagine they'll be able to change this in coming episodes.  After pirate chases on a beach, who wants to return to proper English family issues?  No one. Maybe Neill and Bean will have meatier roles as we get further in the season, but even then it won't be the highlight of the show. 

Philip Winchester is solid as the titular Crusoe - charismatic and dashing.  It's a fun role to play, I'm sure, and Winchester projects that into his acting.  In the end, Crusoe is a silly show.  It wants to be a shamelessly giddy adventure series for young boys, and it should be.  However, the drama is unearned and unwanted, yet constant.  As it stands now, Crusoe has its charms, but is ultimately unsatisfying (unless you're a 12-year-old boy).

-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image Courtesy of NBC)