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Sinbad, Primeval: New World

Syfy debuts duo of international pickups; only one voyage is worth taking

With:
Eliot Knight, Elliot Cowan, Marama Corlett, Estella Daniels, Junix Inocian, Dimitri Leonidas, Naveen Andrews, Orla Brady, Igal Naor                                                Niall Matter, Sara Canning, Danny Rahim, Crystal Lowe, Miranda Frigon

Syfy continues to augment its lineup with international series acquisitions, which is fine, as long as U.S. viewers don’t mind a little “eh” in their accents. The latest pickups include a Saturday-night doubleheader consisting of “Sinbad,” which exhibits initial potential, even if the BBC has already scotched plans for a second voyage; and “Primeval: New World,” a Canadian reboot of a BBC America series that deserves extinction far more than the dinosaurs did. So if there’s one to watch, set sail with Sinbad, with the disclaimer that there’s no point in getting too attached to this tea-time diversion.

Starring Eliot Knight in the title role, “Sinbad” is essentially a prequel to the character we’ve come to know in Ray Harryhausen movies, a young scamp and brawler whose pocket-picking exploits run afoul of the king’s brother (played by “Lost’s” Naveen Andrews) and a scheming sorceress (Orla Brady). So after some nasty business sets a revenge plot in motion, Sinbad must take refuge on a ship where high adventure awaits, starting with a pretty good looking water monster (presumably Andrews’ former co-star, Smoke Monster, wanted too much money), courtesy of the requisite CGI.

It’s all fairly lightweight and nonsensical, but in an entertaining way. The casting is good (Elliot Cowan, currently featured on “Da Vinci’s Demons,” is among Sinbad’s crewmates), and there’s a nice overall look to the Malta-shot production.

Primeval,” by contrast, makes the original series look like “King Kong” by comparison — not because the visual effects are bad, but because the plotting is so wooden that the human characters are about as interesting as impalas grazing in an open plain. That’s true even for the ones ostensibly there to stop the dinosaurs, as opposed to just being circle-of-lifed by them.

The series was a little head-scratching even in its first go-round; here the plot again hinges on “anomalies” creating portals that allow prehistoric beasts to invade the modern world, which can be a real bummer. Leading the intrepid team of animal experts and scientists looking into the matter is Evan Cross (“Eureka’s” Niall Matter), who, like his colleagues, appears to have been chosen more for his piercing eyes than the ability to look convincing in a lab coat.

Frankly, it’s a sign computer-generated dinosaurs have become too affordable if this “Land of the Lost” incarnation can find much of a toehold in primetime. Although as his been established time and again, saying “Dinosaurs” loudly enough can cause concerns about quality to pretty much fly out the window, even with characters who do little more than kill time between glimpses of giant carnivores.

Syfy has already trotted out a homegrown remake of the U.K. series “Being Human,” and since the first “Primeval” was hardly a household name Stateside, this should feel new to most Yanks.

Fresh, alas, would be another matter entirely.

Popular on Variety

Sinbad, Primeval: New World

(Series; Syfy, Sat. June 8, 9/10 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in Malta by Impossible Pictures Ireland.                                                      Filmed in Vancouver by Omnifilm, Bell Media and Entertainment One.

Crew: Executive producers, Sophie Gardiner, Tim Haines, Andrew Woodhead; producer, Grainne Marmion; director, Andy Wilson; writer, Jack Lothian; camera, Gavin Finney; production designer, Martyn John; editor, Andrew MacRitchie; music, Christian Henson; casting, Dan Hubbard.  60 MIN.                                                                   Executive producers, Martin Wood, Gillian Horvath, Jonathan Drake, Katie Newman, Tim Haines, Michael Chechik, Gabriela Schonbach; co-executive producer, Peter Hume; producer, George Horie; director, Wood; writers, Judith Reeves-Stevens, Garfield Reeves-Stevens; based on the series created by Haines, Adrian Hodges; camera, Michael C. Blundell, Rachel O’Toole; editor, Gordon Rempel; music, Andrew Lockington; visual effects supervisor, Mark Savela; casting, Corinne Clark, Jennifer Page, Jaye Riske. 60 MIN.

Cast: Eliot Knight, Elliot Cowan, Marama Corlett, Estella Daniels, Junix Inocian, Dimitri Leonidas, Naveen Andrews, Orla Brady, Igal Naor                                                Niall Matter, Sara Canning, Danny Rahim, Crystal Lowe, Miranda Frigon

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