Apple TV+’s new series, The Buccaneers, is a lavish period drama based on the unfinished novel of the same name by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton. Set in the Gilded Age, a term coined by Mark Twain, which refers to a period of American history between the 1870s and 1900, which saw an economic boom after the Civil War. It was characterized by rapid industrialization and vast expansion in the mining and rail industries.
Wealthy American families with New Money needed husbands with aristocratic titles for their daughters to marry. The Buccaneers TV series follows a group of five young American heiresses who descend upon London society with their wealth, beauty, and independent spirit.
The Buccaneers are led by the rebellious and charismatic Nan St. George (Kristine Froseth from the show Looking For Alaska), who is determined to find love and adventure on her terms. She becomes entangled in a scandalous love triangle with the Duke of Tintagel (Guy Remmers) and a cash-strapped playboy, Guy Thwarte (Matthew Broome), the Duke’s best friend.
She is joined by her friends Conchita Closson (Alisha Boe from 13 Reasons Why), who is looking for a husband who will appreciate her intellect and ambition; Aggie Abercrombie (Mia Isaac), who is eager to escape the oppressive expectations of her family; Lizzy Elmsworth (Imogen Waterhouse), who is torn between her love of freedom and her desire for security; and Mabel Love (Rose Williams), who is searching for true love and happiness.
The Buccaneers soon find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of romance, scandal, and intrigue as they navigate the complex social rules of Victorian England. They challenge the status quo and defy convention, earning themselves the reputation of being “dangerous” and “unladylike.”
Early Critical Reviews
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The Buccaneers has received favourable reviews from critics. Writing in Variety, reviewer Aramide Tinubu states,
“The Buccaneers, however, this isn’t a romance series. Instead, it is a feminist love story about female friendships, shocking betrayals and the sacrifices women have made across time to release themselves and others from the shackles of shame.”
Poppie Platt from the Daily Telegraph offers a humourous but succinct description of the show, noting, “The Buccaneers centers on five young upstarts from 1870s New York whose families are too nouveau to gain them entry to the fanciest balls but their daddies have money. So they embark on a trip across the Atlantic in search of eligble British bachelors who are title-rich but cash-poor.”
Platt’s description summarizes the gist of the series. She also highlights how The Buccaneers mixes historical narratives with modern contemporary elements. The series’ musical score is a case in point. Like Bridgerton, Netflix’s hit historical love drama, The Buccaneers, uses contemporary pop songs within its soundtrack to juxtapose modern and historical elements. The whimsical nature of the characters and contemporary music appeals to a modern audience who might find historical series archaic and fuddy-duddy.
Themes and Audience Expectations
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The popularity of Downton Abbey and recently with Netflix’sBridgertonprove period dramas have always been popular with audiences. The Buccaneers puts a fresh spin on the genre by focusing on a group of young women who are challenging the social norms of their time.
How accurately feminism in late Victorian England is portrayed in the series might be subject to artistic licence, as the period had powerful females like Queen Victoria and renowned female authors like the Bronte sisters, all trailblazers in their own right but perhaps not feminist in the same vein as the characters of the show.
The diverse cast is an anachronism from modernity superimposed onto the socio-political landscape of late Victorian England. The show will hopefully find a larger audience by accommodating the requirements of current television and film norms regarding casting.
The show highlights themes of class difference, feminism and friendship. Visually, The Buccaneers is beautifully shot, with sumptuous costumes and sets. Describing the design, Neil Armstrong from the BBC writes,
“It’s been so expertly made that you have little choice but to surrender to it. Resistance is futile. It looks absolutely beautiful. The costume designers have fully understood the assignment.”
The Buccaneers is not attempting to be historically accurate but to use an exciting period in English and American history. American industrialization and the passing greatness of Victorian England served as backdrops for romance and female friendship against an environment that didn’t offer females much opportunity outside of the traditional roles of wife and mother.
The feminist trappings of the series and the anachronistic casting of diverse race characters are ironic. While films and television promote these frequently controversial conventions, modern audiences crave shows like Downton Abbey and Bridgerton with their deeply historical and traditional settings.
Gossip Girl’s success in the mid-2000s proved there was a market for young adult soap operas with a modern twist, and the success of Downton Abbey during the same period showed that soap operas and historical dramas are still widely popular. Bridgerton and The Buccaneers prove that both worlds can be combined for a potent cocktail of intrigue, romance, and whimsical storytelling against a traditional historical landscape.
The Buccaneers is a promising new series that has the potential to be a hit with audiences. With its engaging characters, lavish production values, and fun and escapist tone, the show will surely appeal to many viewers. It will be interesting to see how the show develops in future seasons and whether it can explore deeper themes of gender bias, classism and morality.
The Buccaneers debuts on Apple TV+ on 8 November 2023.
The Buccaneers is a new upcoming Apple TV+ series.
It offers viewers an exciting romance drama set in the Gilded Age of America and the Late Victorian Age in Britain.
The show follows five unmarried socialites who leave America searching for eligible British bachelors.
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