TV viewers don't expect much on Saturdays ... except on Starz. That's the cable channel that has given us "Da Vinci's Demons," "Dancing on the Edge," "Boss" and, especially, "White Queen." Now it has "Black Sails," a pirate epic.
If you miss the Jan. 25 debut, don't fret. That will rerun Feb. 1, right before the second episode; it also has several more reruns before that. Here's the story I sent to papers, with the various times listed at the end:
By MIKE HUGHES
Each weekend now, the British give us opposite viewing
Pirates slash, rage and plunder; dowagers sip, snack and
ponder. And a mother-son duo does both.
Maggie Smith is the tart matriarch in “Downton Abbey”
(Sundays on PBS); Toby Stephens is the fierce Captain Flint in the new “Black
Sails” (Saturdays on Starz). Smith has drawn praise and awards, but her son
seems happy with his messier role.
“I appreciate ‘Downton Abbey’ for what it is,” Stephens
said, but “I don’t regularly tune in. It’s not the really the kind of show that
He’s played some classy costume dramas, but says “Sails” is
“like going on an exotic vacation.” Which depends on how you vacation. “The
show is sexy; the show is violent,” said writer Jonathan Steinberg.
It’s set in 1715, as the maritime world was changing. For
years, pirates were merely “privateers”; the British government seemed happy
when they disrupted French or Spanish ships.
Now that was starting to change. “People who had been authorized
by the British Crown (to) loot on the open ocean suddenly were criminals,” said
Carmi Zlotnik, the programming chief for Starz.
But as “Black Sails” begins, this is still what Stephens
calls “the golden age of piracy.” Pirates even have their own island, where
rules are scarce. “It’s a world where sexuality and boundaries have completely
broken down,” said Hannah New, who plays the bisexual beauty who runs the
Steinberg’s script mixes several real-life pirates with key
characters from “Treasure Island.” We see the formative years of John Silver
(Luke Arnold) and we see Flint cling to his power.
“It’s a playground for costume designers and everyone,”
Especially for the actors. Stephens professes a fondness for
“My mum is great in” costume drama, he said. “I’ve done it.
I don’t want to do it for the rest of my life. (‘Black Sails’) has a fantastic
character, phenomenal production values and a fantastic story.”
And it lets him play pirate, big-time.
“Black Sails,” 9 p.m. Saturdays, Starz; opener, Jan. 25, reruns at 10:10 and 11:20.
First episode (Jan. 25) reruns at 7:50 p.m.
Feb. 1, in front of the second episode.
Between those two, other reruns are: Sunday (Jan. 26), noon and 3, 8 and 9:10 p.m.; then 10 a.m. Monday, 2:09 and 10 p.m. Tuesday, 7:50 and 9 p.m. Wednesday, 3:50 p.m.
Thursday; and 10:45 p.m. Friday.