We live about 4 (long) blocks from Bryant Park, which shows classic movies in the summer. Last night they set up the screen, not to show some old movie, but to present a brand new TV show. It was the open-air premiere of TNT’s Will a tale of the young William Shakespeare, trying to make a career for himself.

In my view it’s … flawed.

  • It’s drenched in graphic violence, gore, and as much sex and nudity as one can get away with on network TV.
  • The costuming is so excited that it breaks any suspension of disbelief.
    The Globe’s groundlings wear clothes, makeup, and hairstyles that look more like an EDM show than Elizabethan England. At one point a major character shows up in a leopard-print bomber jacket … no.
  • Rather than struggling for his craft, apprenticing, working odd jobs and trying to get his foot in the door, Will is an impossible overnight success. Literally: he produces a full play at the Globe on his second day in London.
  • The cinematography is bizarre. At one point the frame rate drops to like 2 FPS, in a clumsy attempt to convey disorientation or something. Don’t mess with the frame rate! You’re just reminding everyone that this is a video!

It’s still interesting, though. The plot is built on the presumption that Shakespeare is a crypto-Catholic, fleeing persecution by the theocratic state. It’s a conceit used to draw parallels to persecution in our own time … mostly ham-handed, but sometimes effective.

There’s also a pretty fun Elizabethan rap battle (a “duel” of words). That’s a testament to the acting, which is pretty much uniformly great.

I don’t think I’m likely to watch the rest, not least because I don’t have a TV subscription, but I hope the show works for someone out there.

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