TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Crossbones TV Poster Image
Pirate adventure has bloody violence, political intrigue.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Lots of intrigue and politics with no clear positive messages.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Most members of the cast are duplicitous at best, evil and murderous at worst. The cast has scant racial and ethnic diversity, and the women on-screen are mostly prostitutes.


There's violence in every episode, including stabbings, swordplay and gunplay, on-screen deaths, hangings, and dead and decayed bodies. Many of the fights are rather stylized, but others end in gore and death. Some characters glorify violence as a means of leadership.


References to sex include a prostitute explaining how she and her cohorts handle birth control, extramarital flirting and kissing, and men begging women to have sex with them.


Infrequent cursing, including "bastard" and "ass."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink liquor and act drunk and violent; a man takes opium for pain and admits it makes him weak and impotent.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Crossbones is a tense, dark show about political intrigues among pirates on a tropical island in the 18th century. Young children may be attracted to the pirate theme, but this is not a show for kids. There is heavy and intense violence (on-screen stabbings, blood, shootings), as well as disturbing and potentially traumatizing images (an altar made of skulls, a decayed body, a woman with blood running from her eyes). In addition, the twists and turns are intricate and will confuse younger watchers. Parents may also dislike that most of the women on-screen are prostitutes and that there are references to their trade. There are a few curses, and characters drink on-screen; one character abuses drugs to deal with his chronic pain.

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What's the story?

In NBC's hour-long drama CROSSBONES, dread pirate Captain Teach, aka Blackbeard (John Malkovich) has semi-retired from skulduggery and is attempting to transform a tropical island into his own personal rogue nation, complete with miscreants, prostitutes, and assorted castaways. But there's a spanner thrown into the works when one of his associates brings him the fabled Longitude Chronometer, an invention that will change the world by making it possible to calculate the Earth's longitude while they're on the water. Now everyone wants to get his (or her!) hands on the Chronometer and topple Teach's empire at the same time -- especially Tom Lowe (Richard Coyle), who's posing as the island's mild-mannered surgeon but is really an English spy, sent to keep the Chronometer out of the hands of pirates and murder Blackbeard while he's at it.

Is it any good?

Arrrr, matey, the pirate theme be overdone! But the makers of Crossbones manage to squeeze some juice out of it by laying heavy on the political intrigue -- no surprise, since one of the show's backers is fresh from The Tudors. There's a similar vibe at work here: sex and secrets, lush costume and set dressing, and duplicitous characters with complicated motivations. Since we're talking network TV here instead of cable, the sex isn't as sexy (though the blood is as bloody). John Malkovich makes a compelling central character, and writing in an English spy as his opposition lends a cool historical note to the proceedings. But did almost all the female characters have to be prostitutes?

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why pirates are such an enduring theme in movies and television. What other movies or TV shows have you seen about pirates? How are they similar to Crossbones? How are they different?

  • Have you seen the actor playing Captain Teach/Blackbeard before? Has he played a hero, a villain, or a comic character? How does that affect how you view his performance in Crossbones?

  • Why do you suppose the creators of Crossbones decided to make most of the female characters prostitutes? What types of themes or images does this lead to? Why would these be appealing to television producers?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama and adventure

Themes & Topics

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