New on BBC America: One robust hit and one big misfire
There are very few places left on the tube that offer well-made, old-fashioned swashbuckling fare fit for adults and tweens alike.
It’s a role BBC America has played well for some time with richly produced, wonderfully acted series such as "Sinbad," "Atlantis" and now, "The Musketeers."
Premiering at 9 p.m. Sunday with a 10-episode first season, "The Musketeers" is a lush, rousing iteration of the classic Alexandre Dumas story featuring a dream cast of newcomers and seasoned character actors.
Old-fashioned it may be in spirit, but this adventure tale is nothing if not exciting. The first episode opens with a bang: A masked gang of armed marauders attacks an inn on the road to Paris where aging merchant Alexandre D’Artagnan (Oliver Cotton) and his son (Luke Pasqualino) have taken rooms for the night.
The thieves descend, their leader identifying himself as Athos of the King’s Musketeers before slaughtering the elder D’Artagnan.
So begins an epic journey that takes the young son into the big city to challenge the Musketeers to a duel, only to find out they were framed.
The real killers are members of the Red Guard, the private army controlled by Cardinal Armand Richelieu. Peter Capaldi is brilliant as the serpentine cardinal who will stop at nothing to become France’s true ruler.
For his part, King Louis XIII (Ryan Gage) is a goofy manchild who loves to shoot birds "and poets." Each episode opens up a new front in the struggle for power and introduces new villains, including the ultimate assassin, seductress Milady de Winter (Maimie McCoy).
BBC America misses wide of the mark with "Almost Royal," part sitcom and part reality, which premieres at 10 tonight.
This is the kind of show that must have sounded great on paper. The conceit: Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart star as siblings from an aristocratic family who are 83d and 84th in line for the British throne.
Hapless and remarkably stupid, they visit a new American city each episode and hang out with real Americans -- baseball players, actors, mechanics, surgeons -- so they can learn our ways and customs. One feels sorry for the folks who are conned into participating.