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TV review: ‘Crossbones’ is pretty bland summer filler

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John Malkovich gets to play a pirate on TV. Otherwise, there’s not much point in tuning into Crossbones.

Two stars

Crossbones Fridays, 10 p.m., NBC.

For a show about pirates, Crossbones doesn’t feature a whole lot of piracy. Set in 1729, it speculates that renowned pirate Edward “Blackbeard” Teach (John Malkovich) was alive and well a decade after he was supposedly killed, and running a colony of pirates on a secret island. Instead of high-seas adventure, the show is mostly an island-based soap opera, centered around a British spy (Richard Coyle) who’s infiltrated Blackbeard’s camp. Malkovich (with a white goatee, not a black beard) gives a gloriously hammy performance, and Julian Sands is entertainingly nasty as a sadistic British government official. But the rest of the performances are bland and forgettable, as is the show’s visual style, which makes it look like the characters are going on a bargain pirate-themed vacation. A star like Malkovich deserves an impressive showcase for his first foray into series TV, but all he gets is second-rate summer filler.

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