'The Musketeers' review: New and yet familiar

Santiago Cabrera plays the romantic Aramis, one of

Santiago Cabrera plays the romantic Aramis, one of the King's highly prized Musketeers, in BBC America's "The Musketeers" premiering Sunday. (Credit: MCT / HANDOUT)

THE SHOW "The Musketeers"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Sunday night at 9 on BBC America

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Every generation gets fresh musketeers, probably since Alexandre Dumas wrote the book of three in 1844. The movies have starred Douglas Fairbanks in 1921, Gene Kelly in 1948, Richard Chamberlain in 1973, Charlie Sheen in 1993 and Matthew Macfadyen three years ago. The small screen loves the king's trio, too, plus fellow swordsman D'Artagnan, producing among other things a 1966 miniseries with Jeremy Brett. There's even a Japanese cartoon show. The musketeers get around.


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But Athos, Porthos and Aramis usually arrive British-accented, as they do anew in this weekend's colorful 17th century period series from the BBC. The do-gooders are young and handsome and arch -- Tom Burke ("The Hour"), Santiago Cabrera ("Heroes") and stage-trained newcomer Howard Charles, plus Luke Pasqualino ("The Borgias"). Scheming king-whisperer Cardinal Richelieu is delicious Doctor Who-to-be Peter Capaldi. As always, there's female eye candy (Tamla Kari and Maimie McCoy). And contemporary attitude ("Him, I'm not sure about. Her, I like").

The physical production couldn't be more gritty-sumptuous, shot amid mud and snow and castles around Prague, grandly scored with robust percussion, filled with lively set pieces of combat, romance and duplicity.

MY SAY So why does it feel so so-so? Because I've seen it all too many times before? Because these actors deliver attitude with skill but not distinction? (Or humor?) Because TV today is already swimming in "Da Vinci's Demons"/"Black Sails"/"Crossbones" mid-millennium adventure?

Or maybe because its story quilt of mistaken identity, last-second rescue, vows of vengeance and oh-the-irony -- despite being gorgeously stitched together -- remains a familiar pattern?

But never mind me. BBCs on both sides of the Atlantic have already ordered up a second season.

BOTTOM LINE Colorfully drawn. But all inside the lines.

GRADE C+

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