TV Review: Crusoe



Here's a series about what it's like to be marooned with little hope of rescue and have to get by with few resources. No, it's not about NBC, but it is on NBC.

"Crusoe," based loosely on the classic adventure tale by Daniel Defoe, is an international co-production that champions swashbuckling and scenery without grasping the significance of credibility and character development.

This is, perhaps, what might have happened if the Halmis were asked to remake "Lost." In any event, it remains consistent with NBC's new programming philosophy: "Anything you can do I can do cheaper."

The no-star cast (except for Sam Neill in a tiny role) sees Philip Winchester as the sole survivor of a shipwreck. From the two-hour opener, it's obvious Crusoe has made the most of his time on this uncharted island. He built a zip-line infrastructure, a range of deadly traps and an assortment of pully-operated devices that would make Rube Goldberg drool with envy.

At some point, he also prevented a group of cannibals from dining on Friday (Tongayi Chirisa), thereby turning an entree into a friend for life. Definitely no savage, Friday is an expert marksman, a fleet runner and, with his knowledge of 12 tongues, a cunning linguist.

In the premiere, an expedition of British pirates comes to the island to retrieve buried treasure. The raiding party, though small, nonetheless includes a saucy, shapely wench. Crusoe, being a married man, is not at all tempted. (Insert your own punchline here.)

Not long after the British pirates get there, another expedition, this one of Spaniards, also arrives for the treasure. Later, the cannibals return as well as others. For a supposedly isolated island, this one is getting enough visitors to interest Marriott.

Frequent flashbacks piece together the story of how Crusoe got into this mess. Presumably, all the dots won't be connected until the 13th and final part of the series. Meanwhile, they are mostly speed bumps in this story of a brave but terribly bland marooned mariner.