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'Black Sails' review: Starz has a bona fide hit

Toby Stephens in "Black Sails."

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

THE SHOW "Black Sails"

WHEN | WHERE Saturday at 9 p.m. on Starz

WHAT IT'S ABOUT The Walrus -- the great pirate ship formerly under the command of Capt. Flint (Toby Stephens) -- lies like a beached whale on the coast of Florida, and so in a sense, does Cap'n Flint. The crew has mutinied, and all is lost, including perhaps the vast store of Spanish gold, nearly within reach. He needs a new friend -- will he find that friend in John Silver (Luke Arnold)?

Meanwhile, there is a newcomer to Nassau, still under the tenuous command of Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New). He is a blackhearted monster with the conscience of . . . well, the conscience of a pirate. This blaggard's name is Ned Low (Tadhg Murphy), captain of The Fancy, and you'll get to meet him in the opening minutes of Saturday's second-season launch.

MY SAY "Black Sails" has emerged as the genuine crowd-pleaser Starz has been searching for lo these many years -- that crowd mainly comprised of dudes who like their violence hard, fast and upside the head. It's a Peckinpah western set on the high seas, where the good, bad and ugly rule, though almost exclusively the bad and ugly. (The actual "good" who are foolish enough to show their pretty little heads, in fact, tend to lose them quickly.)

This is a Robert Levine and Jonathan Steinberg creation -- both worked on Fox's "Human Target" -- but the famous name attached is Michael Bay, and that alone says all you need to know here: Operatic violence, sex served generously and indecorously, and spectacular special effects.

But let's get beyond the all-too-easy Bay-bashing. The real surprise is just how entertaining "Black Sails" is. This is often grand-scale entertainment, with pounding action sequences and sumptuous special effects -- a re-created London circa 1705, or the port of Nassau, where even the nonhuman rats can be seen scurrying through the streets. The stories are intricate enough to hold attention, but not too intricate. The action, which always supersedes the chatter, is the thing, and here it's something to see indeed.

BOTTOM LINE Starz has a bona fide hit -- averaging 5.3 million viewers per episode last season -- and it's easy to see why.


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