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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Will on TNT Shakespeare TV Series


I just watched the first episode of the new television show Will on TNT, about the young William Shakespeare.

I want to share some of my thoughts about it with you.

This is not a full and detailed review, since I would not have very nice things to say about the show — and my mother taught me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything.

This show looked very exciting to watch, since the full story of William Shakespeare — how he came to London and how he conquered the stages there — has not been told on TV or in films.

The creator of the show is Craig Pearce, who collaborated with Baz Luhrmann to make Romeo + Juliet starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby, and my personal favorite, Strictly Ballroom — which my father watched and re-watched probably more than any other film he ever saw.

I have always had a great affection for those films, and I even got to meet Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin several times. They are some of the nicest and most generous people in the world.

So I was very excited to see this show. The cast looked great, young and energetic — and they are indeed very talented.

I don’t mind that the show has a contemporary rock soundtrack — I love The Clash’s London Calling. 

I don’t even mind the groundling audience members dressed up like they were at a concert, in the 1980s, for Flock of Seagulls, Boy George, or Adam Ant — with their spiked hair and colorful make-up.

I would have preferred far less nudity, and violence. I think it was gratuitous, unnecessary, and a complete distraction from the story of Shakespeare himself.

I wish I could recommend this TV show, and tell you that you should watch it. Sadly, I can’t. 

The biggest problem with this show, is that it assumes that since we know so little about Shakespeare, then it is free to invent history.

Instead of attempting to develop or discover some truth about Shakespeare, this show just makes stuff up.

If you don’t know anything about Shakespeare, you will not learn anything from this show. 

If you are familiar with Shakespeare’s life, or if you know a lot about him, you will probably be as frustrated as I am at how many liberties this show takes with Shakespeare’s life and work.

I encourage you instead to find a good biography of Shakespeare — James Shapiro’s 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, or Peter Ackroyd’s Shakespeare: The Biography, or Jonathan Bate’s Soul of the Age.

You could also read or re-read his plays and poems. Or you could stream, or watch a DVD of, an adaptation of one of his plays. Or watch a production from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, or a production from the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Any of those will give you more entertainment and insight into Shakespeare than this show does.

Cheers,