'Black Sails' review: A UN for pirates?

Toby Stephens in "Black Sails."

Toby Stephens in "Black Sails." (Credit: Starz Entertainment)

DRAMA SERIES "Black Sails"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres 9-10:10 p.m. Saturday on Starz

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Who needs modern must-haves like antibiotics when you can be so sturdy, studly and babelicious in the early 1700s? Perfect white teeth and firm mammaries come abundant in "Black Sails," new from the premium cable label behind "Spartacus" and "Da Vinci's Demons."


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This time the pretty people include seafarers Silver, Flint and Billy Bones, two decades before their "Treasure Island" days. (It's a prequel!) Mashed up with real-history pirates Charles Vane and "Calico Jack" Rackham, plus gutsy fictional femmes, amid the free-for-all of the Bahamas' New Providence island, they form their own United Nations of classes, ethnicities, ambitions, sexual proclivities and even political bent. There are prostitutes, but also accountants, and wheeler-dealers eager to work with "your man in Havana."

Bloody pirate battles? Check. Graphic sex scenes? Check. Shoreside conniving/intrigue? Intense. "Civilization is coming," prophesies canny Captain Flint ("Die Another Day" baddie Toby Stephens). "To survive, we must unite behind our own kin." Will John Silver (Luke Arnold, rock-starring in Australia's new INXS miniseries) help him forge the Pirate States of America?

MY SAY Showrunner Jon Steinberg created the post-nuke saga "Jericho," also eyeing base human instincts amid messy social development. Just as CBS mucked with that series, Starz brings its own demands, meaning muddily plotted "adult" content balanced oddly against Steinberg's deeper desires. And then there's movie-spectacle-king executive producer Michael Bay. Yes! Stuff blows up!

BOTTOM LINE Some viewers fancy pirates 'n' babes. Others seek smarter stuff. Will either side be satisfied? (Starz has already ordered a second season.)

GRADE B

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