I approached this new British interpretation of the Sinbad legend with a fair amount of trepidation. I had heard the show described to both extremes, both as brilliant and as horrendous. So in truth, I probably didn't expect very much from the viewing. I thought I'd try an episode, but then bow out if it was too cheesy or silly. Instead, however, I've been pleasantly surprised. As is the way with most TV programs (even the best shows have their haters and the worst shows have their supporters), "Sinbad" is neither absolutely terrific or totally abysmal. Although far from perfect, it is a program with a great deal of potential. Somewhat uneven in tone from episode to episode, the narrative has a solid premise and the effects are better than you might anticipate. Perhaps closest in feel to this "Sinbad" is the recent anachronistic updating of "Robin Hood" from the BBC. Part comedy, part adventure, the individual episodes can range from gripping to amusing to slightly painful. But despite an inconsistency, I have found this investment worth the effort. Not only is "Sinbad" much better than I expected, I actually quite enjoy it! This adventure series might not be designed to capture awards, but it is serviceable and fun entertainment.
The adventure kicks off with a little bit of back story. The premiere introduces the major players and describes how Sinbad sets course on his life at sea. Sinbad (Elliott Knight) gets mixed up in the death of a noble's son. Looking for retribution, Lord Akbari (Naveen Andrews of Lost) strikes at Sinbad's family resulting in great tragedy. Sinbad's grandmother (Oscar nominee Janet Suzman), in an effort to remove Sinbad from harm's way, curses him to an existence in exile. A mystical necklace prevents him from spending more than one day on land or it will extinguish his life. Needless to say, Sinbad is off to sea and that is where he will stay until the danger can be removed. A freak occurrence decimates the boat he is on and he's left with a crew of oddly matched survivors with which to navigate the rest of the series. Each episode is a self-contained story as Sinbad and crew discover new lands and new people. But the pervasive threat of Lord Akbari is never far from the mind as he uses both his brother (Yigal Naor) and a witch (a very good Orla Brady) to track the wayward sailor. It was this on-going story line that really kept me invested in the show's outcome.
If I have any complaints about "Sinbad," they generally involve the supporting players who range in believability. At first, his friends and compatriots are character types that really don't get much in the way of development. But as the series progresses, they do come into their own. I still wasn't entirely crazy about all the performances (even Knight isn't a slam dunk for me), but what did surprise me was the talent of some of the guest stars. Within the first few shows, we've got Oscar nominee Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda) and character actor Timothy Spall popping up and both elevate the material dramatically. Later on, Matthew Horne (Gavin and Stacey), Lee Ingleby (Inspector George Gently) and Dougray Scott show up as well. I had expected this "Sinbad" to be populated by virtual unknowns, so I'm surprised by how many familiar faces are present.
There are lots of opportunities for "Sinbad" to develop into an even better series should it continue. But don't immediately discount its current achievements. The effects crew must be commended as well. I really thought the effects were solid for a show of this type and interesting. I liked the creatures that popped up and thought they were well designed and executed. "Sinbad" aspires to be escapism, pure and simple. It doesn't have extravagant goals. It is content to be a lark, a bit of fun. It can certainly be cheesy on occasion, but it is more than balanced by a seriousness that I did not expect. KGHarris, 7/13.
Season One consists of 12 episodes:
(1) Pilot, (2) Queen of the Water Thieves, (3) House of Games, (4) Old Man of The Sea, (5) Hunted, (6) The Siren, (7) Homecoming, (8) Kuji, (9) Eye of the Tiger, (10) For Whom The Egg Shatters, (11) Fiend or Friend?, and (12) Land of the Dead.