Sinbad s01e01: Pilot

Sorry for being AWOL readers, I may have been hunting around for a bootleg of the Ant Man test footage from SDCC this weekend instead of watching TV. I’m literally dying of anticipation here; I love superheroes with not-cool powers. Hank Pym needs to team up with Angel from X-Men and they can spend issues just griping away.

But yes. Review. Sky 1 has a new series out and it’s not the one that gives Chloe Sevigny a chance to air her insecurities and her terrible Irish accent (Hit & Miss by the way). It’s Sinbad, a purportedly bigger-than-normal budget reimagining of a classic tale of adventuring on the high seas. Maybe not the most original of stories, but I’ve got no problem with a reboot every now and then. Anyways…

First impressions:

  • This is so weirdly retro. The show would have totally been in a pre-prime time block on WB39, after the Beastmaster and before Relic Hunter (incidentally, followed by Andromeda then the news at 5:30). On the off season it would trade off with Hercules re-runs. I think it’s the soundtrack, like something that was filmed in Canada in the early 00s. Not necessarily a bad thing if you grew up on these because you were too lame for a social life (sob).
  • This series will live or die by how well it embraces the cheese. I’m already going to guess that this isn’t going to be Game of Thrones style fantasy with classy acting.
  • Speaking of, Game of Thrones totally made an impression on TV Land and you can tell. When has fantasy ever been high-ish budget? Now, apparently. Make that money, Sky 1.

But back to the actual TV show. Let’s take a look at the overall stuff first. There’s some good casting going on here; I bet the producers took one look at the Jake Gyllenhaal in Prince of Persia incident, or the entire M Night’s Last Airbender hullabaloo, and made a conscious decision to go in the complete opposite direction. The diversity of the casting is actually amazingly notable compared to a lot of shows on TV at the moments, and it’s definitely something you notice in a good way. However, who on earth thought Marama Corlett was a good idea. It’s not that she’s necessarily a bad actress, because she could totally play the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl of your next summer feel-good indie romantic comedy. But here she really sticks out quite a bit. Is she too clean compared to the background characters? Is her costume like something from the Anthropologie clearance rack layered with choice pieces from your local hippy fashion co-op? I have no idea, really. This requires more study.

Incidentally, Kingsley Shacklebolt is in this too. I think he got to reuse his wardrobe from Harry Potter.

And incidentally, this show and its cast was made for Tumblr and its fangirls. The beefcake is strong in this one.

Hello.
Hello.

The costuming and sets aren’t period accurate, but they’re pretty sweet, except for a few London art school hair styles (dammit Marama Corlett, go study knitwear design or something). They’ve made a good decision filming this on location in Malta, because half of the fun behind Sinbad is seeing all the exotic locales he ends up at. You can really see it working out well for the TV-viewing public in terms of scenery eye candy unless they decide to reuse the same town sets over and over.

The fact it’s UK TV and not set in a parking lot means they’ve really invested in this.

In all, I wasn’t entirely feeling some of the acting or scripting; the plotting on the scene with Sinbad sneaking onto the ship was a bit laughable while Kingsley Shacklebolt vs the Water Demon Thing was intensely hilarious, which might also have been the fault of some TV-grade CGI. It’s a problem you get with fantasy time and time again, no matter how much you play it straight in the script, everything else has to be right on or else you end up the Beastmaster again. Game of Thrones succeeds not only because the script is pretty good, but because they don’t rely too much on CGI for their drama. The CGI direction is a direction I fear this show might go, which would have the potential to take it into so bad it’s good territory (it’s west of the Rockies).

Also, for being a cheesy fantasy adventure series, sometimes the script does dip a little bit too far into genre cliches. So far, we’ve already had the “giving the hot chick CPR underwater” scene, the misty absent brother saying “DON’T GIVE UP convert your natural chutzpah into oxygen and save that girl from a watery death” scene and the “I shall play dead and lure you into my prison where I will try to barter your life for my freedom” scene. Plus, the overuse of the term “street rat” just makes me replay the best of the Aladdin OST in my head every bloody time.

But hey, it’s early days yet, and in a slightly difficult genre too. The pilot did its thing and gave Sinbad a straightforward backstory, gave him a reason to leave his hometown and joined up our ragtag group of adventurers. We’ll see how the next episode with the cannibal queen goes. As long as they keep up Sinbad’s characterization as a guy who continuously gets dumped on by the universe, I’ll be happy.

Also, I keep coming across naked anime dudes instead of Sinbad screencaps on Tumblr. Can more people please start giffing this? You know you want to.

About Jac Thurmond 25 Articles

Co-founder of The Spoilist. Resident horror aficionado. Also reviewing science fiction, animation, and arthouse films. You can find me on Twitter.