This UK action adventure puts the "bad" in Sinbad. Shame about that.

It can be ever so treacherous trying to produce television for a family audience. How do you speak to such a broad demographic without dumbing down the content? Do you lean more towards males or females?

The consensus is if you skew towards males, you’ll pick up females along the way, but not the reverse. Hence FMC has Conspiracy 365 on air this year. More recently we’ve seen the UK’s Primeval and, arguably the best of them, Merlin.

Now ABC1 brings us the adventurous Sinbad, also from Primeval‘s Impossible Pictures.

It stars Elliot Knight as the mythical Persian sailor, who sailed the seas of Africa and Asia, meeting monsters and facing magical adventures.

Knight is a dashing young hero with his thick eyeliner, buff torso, wind-swept hair and five o’clock shadow. Together with an outfit that could have been picked up at a GAP store, he’s managed to turn Sinbad into a bit of a poster boy.

We meet our hero on the streets of Basra with his brother Jamil (Devon Anderson). Both get into mischief beyond their capacity and Sinbad soon finds himself set against Lord Akbari (Naveen Andrews). Angered by his foolish behaviour, his grandmother exiles him to sea and curses him with an amulet. Thanks, granny.

So begins the voyages for which the young Persian has become famous, stowing away on a merchant ship which encounters all sorts of CGI terror on the high seas.

There’s not a lot of depth to this yarn, which is quick to lurch from one moment of peril to the next. But the characters espouse dialogue that is more fitting for children’s TV rather than a family audience, with distracting British accents from Middle-Eastern and Maltese performers.

Naveen Andrews, who was so compelling in Lost, is allowed no room for subtext or emotional depth. Elliot Knight handles the action scenes well and may fill the brief as a cool, juvenile hero, but this undervalues the magnitude of a literary legend.

Added to that, as action television it is tepid in its tension.

The series was originally set to air on Nine (who may well have wisely reconsidered), and whilst it may pair conveniently with the vastly superior Doctor Who on Saturdays, I’m seeing this one as putting the “bad” in Sinbad.

And not in a good way.

Sinbad airs 8:20pm Saturdays on ABC1.

12 Responses

  1. Sinbad wasn’t great, but it was ok. Better than the endless repeats of Midsomer Murder on the ABC anyway. Channel 9 doesn’t really have anywhere to show it but the ABC puts on stuff on Friday and Saturday nights for people who don’t watch football.

    The mix of accents was a bit odd but this is becoming fairly common on global TV programmes these days. Merlin is a mix of Irish, Welsh and English accents.

  2. David is right, context is everything.
    When I am referred to by my wife’s family or my friends and colleagues as ‘the Pom’ – for I am one – it is (usually) a term of endearment; but the guy who once screamed at me and my young daughter to “%$&# off back to England! You pommy @#$%s!” after hearing our accents, clearly had something other than a bit of friendly banter in mind!

    As for Sinbad and the accents, I thought it odd that while some of the cast spoke with a slight, possibly Arabic-style accent (if such a thing exists), others had regional English ones, the Liverpudlian ship’s captain being a prime example.

    It’s a bit off-putting I find, similarly with the BBC production of Zen: some actors had regional British accents, some spoke English with Italian accents, while others spoke in Italian with subtitles.
    The British version of Swedish show Wallander is another that falls into this trap. I wish they’d just stick with one concept.

  3. @Secret Squirrel…I admire your stance..and certainly there are no single accents in any country as such. The trouble is, being PC becomes problematic because someone can be offended about almost anything. If you refer to say a ‘nasal twang’ being inappropriate for a certain show…someone will undoubtedly point to some physical issue the speaker holds and that they can’t help it! I say this with a slight tongue in cheek but I’m sure you know what I mean.

    I mentioned in another topic one day that many Americans I know found it hard to understand Muriel’s Wedding and Australia because of our accents. I bet someone would be offended by that even though it is about as neutrally stated as possible.

  4. @Southpatt – it was a mild transgression which is why I only requested that it be “toned down a little”.

    I wasn’t objecting to the use of the term “Pommy” but the description of an ethnic group’s accents as dreadful. This position becomes more untenable when you consider the wide variety in accents from West Country to Received Pronunciation to Yorkshire altho’ it is conceivable that someone might find them all to be objectionable.

    Even so, there are more polite ways to convey that.

  5. The Punch had some pieces a while back and I was actually surprised how many English people (if they were of course) objected to the term. They said they worked here and were sick of co-workers saying it and making jokes about ‘whinging pom’ etc. They reckoned Aussies were far more whinging than they are!

    And perhaps therein lies the rub, the fact the word is often applied with a negative descriptor.

    I too thought the solo word had almost reached an endearment – not quite though – phase but apparently not if those folks are to be believed.

  6. @secret Squirrel

    I have never found the term Pom offensive and it seems so that neither does the legislating power 🙂

    “A derogatory term, it was controversially ruled no longer offensive in 2006 by the Australian Advertising Standards Board”

    That being said I always find it hard watching a show where obviously English would not have been the native tongue.

    For this, I think It is best to have it spoken without any discernible accent.

  7. Speaking of ethnicity…. I just watched the trailer for this (I presume it’s the same one that was on Sky)..and it’s not quite as bad as I thought. This said, it did feel a tad cheesy and the voices were part of that.

    A comment made on the vid page asked why they hadn’t chosen an Arabic world actor or an actor whose cultural inheritance came from that part of the world. It reminded me of the dialogue around the actors hired for Mao’s Last Dancer.

    I think this issue worthy of discussion and I very much admire the work done by Dr. Jack Shaheen in this area. If you get a chance, look him up and his short film. reelbadarabs…it’s quite thought provoking and well crafted.

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