In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, ABC
I know what you’re thinking. “Thank Christ for that! At last! A sequel to Romeo and Juliet! I so wanted to know what happened to everyone else at the end of that. Not Romeo and Juliet, obviously, because they’re dead.”
Thankfully, after a few mere centuries of waiting, here we are, all braced to find out what happened to the supporting cast of one Shakespeare’s finest thanks to Still Star-Crossed, an adaptation of Melinda Taub’s book of the same name. Will it be war between the Montagues and the Capulets? Does Rosaline, Juliet’s serving girl, get married and live happily ever after, preferably not to a Capulet? Did Romeo really manage to kill Paris? And what will happen to Friar Laurence, the narrator of the play and the bloke who gave Juliet that pesky potion that caused this story of woe?
By the end of the first episode, though, if I’d ever wanted to know the answers to those questions – and I’m not sure I did – I’d definitely lost all interest in finding them out because Still Star-Crossed is desperately dull. Strangely, it’s a bit hard to work out where it’s going so horribly wrong, but it quite definitely is.
The script itself isn’t that awful. While expecting Shakespeare is an error, of course, it follows the original play for about half its runtime and when it tries to be original itself, it’s reasonably well plotted, if soapy, with intrigue, war, covert love affairs, sibling rivalry and mean step-mothers/aunts/employers aplenty. The dialogue’s a bit ropey and cod Jane Austen, but nothing too shocking – although, oddly, no one thought to half-inch much from Shakespeare himself, à la Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. I can’t help feeling that catholics living in Italy during the Middle Ages would be less likely to have mass sword-fights inside cathedrals than depicted, but history will almost certainly provide dozens examples to disprove me, I’m sure.
Production values are okay. The show’s gone to the effort of filming in Spain, rather than Sacramento, and in lots of lovely old towns at that, so at least it looks reasonably the part. If a bit autumnal. And Spanish, not Italian. Where it needs more help to look Veronese, there’s plenty of background CGI, albeit quite obvious, cheap background CGI. Everyone gets decent enough wardrobe and set dressing. It looks a bit too clean to be properly medieval and has a touch of The Musketeers about it at times, but it still looks 100 times more authentic than the average Renaissance Fair, say.
Direction is… average. There are the occasional nods to Baz Luhrmann’s visually exciting and innovative Romeo + Juliet, but for the most part, it’s competent and workmanlike, albeit more intent on showing off the nice interior decor than it is on thrilling us.
The cast of almost entirely English actors is pretty and not too hammy. Anthony Head (playing Lord Silvestro Capulet) is the obvious stand-out who knows what he’s doing and can do all this with his eyes shut. Everyone else is either concentrating a bit too hard on the dialogue, not hitting anyone else too hard with their swords or blinking in disbelief that they’ve been cast in this – to the show’s credit and taking its cue from modern theatre, at least half the main cast are black, with a few pasty white Brits making no effort whatsoever to sound Italian (if realism is your worry) making up the rest of the numbers.
They’re just nothing that wrong with any of its components. By rights, it should be a perfectly average piece of US TV that passes the time oddly, and certainly no worse than Outlander does, for example. Yet, it’s impressively uninvolving, with no character to really care about, action scenes that go through all the motions of period action scenes without evoking even the slightest thrill, and illicit romances and jealousies that have all the piquancy of an end-of-year profit and loss reconciliation meeting.
Who, what, where, why? I just didn’t care. And you won’t either.
Here’s a trailer. A plague on both the houses of whomever thought “where this tragedy ends… an even greater story begins” was a good idea.