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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this swashbuckling series uses Daniel Defoe's classic novel Robinson Crusoe as a departure point rather than a script guide, picking up long after the title character has been shipwrecked on a lush tropical island. Pirates, soldiers, cannibals, and other mysterious visitors provide regular excitement, and there's a fair bit of violence, including swordfights and shootouts. Though there's little blood or gore, some of the villains' very casual attitude about killing -- either their enemies or their allies -- can be disturbing. There's little to worry about in the way of sex, language, or drinking/drugs.
What's the story?
Considering he's a castaway on a deserted island, life's not so bad for Robinson Crusoe (Philip Winchester). He's built a comfortable, innovative tree house (complete with elevator), he has plenty of livestock and fresh produce, and he even manages to maintain a clean shave every day. This adventurous series, based on Daniel Defoe's classic novel, picks up the castaway's story years after the shipwreck that stranded him on the island -- and long after he saves Friday (Tongayi Chirisa) from a band of cannibals. Together, the two men spend their time scanning the seas for signs of rescue and building innovative machines to make their isolated life a bit more pleasant (the automatic signal-fire starter is plenty useful, but the mechanical orange-juice press is an even better sign that they've truly brought civilization into the wilderness).
Is it any good?
The two men aren't always alone on the island. Much of CRUSOE's drama comes from the pirates, Spanish soldiers, bloodthirsty cannibals, and other visitors who seem to arrive regularly on the island with their own agendas -- which don't always include rescuing Crusoe. These encounters often lead to swashbuckling conflict, including plenty of sword fights and lots of clever uses for caskets of gunpowder.
The show's tone makes being a castaway seem like an exciting escapade. Though Crusoe often talks about how much he misses his wife back home in England (she appears regularly in flashback sequences), he seems quite happy on the island. Even when pirates are threatening his life, Crusoe still acts like he's having a grand adventure. This series is certainly not realistic, but it will be entertaining for kids and people looking for simple escapism. It plays more like Gilligan's Island with gunpowder than Tom Hanks' desperate loneliness in Cast Away.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the mystique of the castaway. Why do you think so many movies and TV shows have focused on either individuals or small groups of people forced to survive alone in the wilderness? What do their struggles say about the human spirit, or the need for social contact? Why do some people rise to the occasion and thrive, while others crumple and give up? How do you think you would do if you were left alone on an island? Families can also discuss whether it's OK to change a classic book significantly when adapting it. Is it OK to name something after the original if it doesn't follow the story closely?