There’s nothing here to make the kids swing from the banisters and string up the family pooch, but the series “Pirates,” in its first season, is shaping up as solid educational fare with a family slant.
Producer/director David Cohen (“The Pleasure Principle”) and co-scripter Rosemary Kingsland have dug up some fascinating material for this Welsh-funded, 13-seg docu series, billed as the first TV history (from Egyptian times to the present) of the subject.
Seg “The Barbary Corsairs” looks at the motley group of pirates who roamed the Mediterranean (and beyond, as far as Britain) from the 17th to 19th centuries as a moneymaking sideshow to the ongoing battle between Christianity and Islam.
Many were Brit, French or Dutch sailors, dissatisfied with their own work conditions, who “turned Turk” and went freelance for Islamic masters, especially after the U.K. made peace with Spain and left them with no major enemy to raid.
These included John Ward, who worked for the king of Tunis, and ex-lawyer Henry Mainwairing, who even wrote a book on the subject.
Most screen time goes to the notorious Barbarossa brothers, two Turks from Lesbos who virtually brought shipping to a standstill.
Spanish scribe Cervantes, a famous kidnapping victim, spent the rest of his life writing books (including “Don Quixote”) to pay back the ransom raised for his release.
As in segs “The Gift of Piracy” and “Women Pirates” (latter focusing on the feisty Ann Bonny and Mary Read), style is a mesh of travelogue segments and economically staged episodes.
Former roam over a wide variety of sites; latter, competently acted, are realistically staged but often scripted too literally.
Tech credits are fine, and Neil Jeffries’ synth score is pleasant. Series was produced back to back with the 13-episode “The Secrets of Treasure Islands,” straight docu with no staged material.