Tomorrow night Syfy temporarily surrenders its Saturday night slot normally devoted to gloriously terrible movies to two new series it acquired from international distributors. Neither show is really worth your time, but one of them is so INgloriously terrible that you’ll want to give it wide berth.
That would be Sinbad, a wrong-headed 12-episode BBC adaptation of the old legends about the seagoing Arabian hero and swashbuckler. This new series, apparently aimed at very undiscriminating tween girls, stars charmless British newcomer Elliot Knight in the title role, here a cocky teenager who spends life in his hometown port of Basra running various scams and con games. One of them ends tragically, leading to the death of his older brother, so his grandmother (Janet Suzman, Nicholas and Alexandra) places him under a curse: Sinbad will be doomed to roam the seas, never allowed to spend more than 24 hours at a time on land until he atones for his guilt.
The premiere episode appears cheap and ill-produced, with some of the men’s costumes looking as if they were purchased at a Gap outlet. The script takes so long to lay out Sinbad’s back story that the episode is half over before he finally boards The Providence to flee the wrath of an angry nobleman (Naveen Andrews, Lost), at which point the lethargic pace picks up a little. The passenger list on the craft includes two of Sinbad’s most recent marks (awkward!), as well as an imposing Nordic traveler named Gunnar (Elliot Cowan, most recently seen as Lorenzo Medici in Da Vinci’s Demons on Starz).
The biggest among Sinbad’s many problems is that it simply lacks any sense of magic. Sinbad battles a CGI water creature in the opening episode, but the special effect looks like something a not particularly gifted teenager might knock out on his laptop. All things considered, it’s easy to see why the BBC opted to pull the plug on this feeble series after these first episodes aired in the UK.
Airing immediately after Sinbad is Primeval: New World, a Canadian spinoff of the moderate British hit Primeval, which ran for a few years Stateside on BBC America. Like your favorite niece’s third-grade pageant, Primeval: NW is more sophisticated and better acted, written, directed and produced than Sinbad, but it’s also little more than the British original transplanted to Canada with a new cast.
If you saw that original show, you know that means Primeval: NW revolves around a plucky band of scientists who are trying to contain the threat when “anomalies” in space and time begin to open, spilling prehistoric beasties onto modern-day streets. Their job is made more complicated because they can’t just kill the creatures that come through; as anyone who has seen a time-travel yarn knows, if they snuff out the wrong ancient creature, they risk setting off a ripple effect throughout time that could have devastating effects on the current day.
Perhaps the most familiar face to U.S. audiences will be Sara Canning, who starred for a time on The Vampire Diaries as Nina Dobrev’s doomed Aunt Jenna. Andrew Lee Potts, an original cast member from the British Primeval, reprises his character as Connor Temple in Saturday’s premiere to provide a bridge between the two shows. The special creature effects are indeed a cut above the usual TV standard, but if you saw the UK original, they’ll look pretty familiar to you.
Like Sinbad, Primeval: NW was axed by its production company after a single season, so the 13 episodes Syfy has scheduled for this summer will be all she wrote. Consider yourself warned.