The Buccaneers Review 2023 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online
I’m somehow an Edith Wharton fan without ever having read one of her books. I hope that’s allowed. I’m even more of a fan now, because she has given us The Buccaneers. By which I mean Apple TV+’s take on her unfinished, posthumously published novel of the same name, starring all sorts of young actors who all merge into one beneath my benevolent but ageing croneish eye, as characters who get into all sorts of ahistorical costumes and scrapes but power the whole thing along with sheer youthful exuberance.
We meet the gaggle of girls whose romantic fortunes we will track over eight energetic episodes, as they prepare for the grand New York society wedding of one of their number, Conchita (Alisha Boe). She is known as Connie in the book but they call her Conchi here, which I find ineffably upsetting and feel some etiquette or linguistic expert should have been on hand to prevent it. Anyway – Conchita is due to marry Lord English of Englishtown (actually Lord Richard Marable, played by Josh Dylan, but I’m conveying the vibe here not the facts). She almost doesn’t because his parents Senior Lord and Lady English (played by Anthony Calf – Anthony Calf! What a lovely surprise! – and Fenella Woolgar, last seen as Margaret Thatcher in The Reckoning and only slightly less terrifying here) Englishly object. Her best friend, and our main heroine, Nan (Kristine Froseth) saves the day, and lucky she does, because Richard has already impregnated his fiancée and time is a-wasting.
At the behest of governess Miss Testvalley (Simone Kirby), he offers to have them all over to London for the season, to be presented to the queen at the debutantes’ ball so that they can stick it to the New York old money snobs and keep Conchi company as she incubates the fruit of his pallid loins. Nan’s mother Mrs St George (Christina Hendricks, doing a lot with a small part) is delighted that she can now do her duty by her two very different daughters – lively, curious Nan and insecure, conventional Jinny (Imogen Waterhouse) who is soon begging her younger sibling to stop bounding around “being fascinating all over the place.” Older sisters can relate.
And then we’re off, galloping across the Atlantic so that the girls can blow fresh, spirited American air through stuffy aristocratic society (“This place is a pitful of snakes,” warns Conchita. “Make sure you don’t get bitten”). They fall in and out of love, drop shoes in cakes, mistake identities, pine and repine, make the best of dismal marriages (although you also need to watch out, crappy husbands!), question their orientations, deal with sexual assaults, throw over dukes, manage family revelations and startle dreary old buggers with unexpected insights into art.
It is Bridgerton, which was Jane Austen meets Gossip Girl, meets Gossip Girl a century on. It is The Royals (if anyone remembers that glorious travesty starring Elizabeth Hurley as – yes! – the Queen of England) but good. It is The Gilded Age if Julian Fellowes had been able to channel the wit of Edith Wharton – or anyone – and inject it with modern flair and keep the whole thing effervescent and charming without becoming vapid, which is exactly the feat creator Katherine Jakeways has pulled off.
Of course it’s nonsense, in the sense that there is no slavish attention to period detail. (The only salient one here is that at the turn of the century the English aristocracy was so desperate for the money of vulgar American heiresses that they were forced to marry them and put up with all the New World manners). It is also largely a romcom rather than a fully Whartonly astute piece of social and proto-feminist commentary.
But we are allowed some nonsense now and again, and there is nothing more joyfully restorative than when it is done as well as it is here. It is enormous fun without being unresonant with today’s concerns. Young women’s expectations – of life, love, the freedom to pursue both – are still trammelled in various ways. There are fewer dukes but still plenty of sexual assaults. And The Buccaneers keeps the importance of female friendship at its heart and lets it warm it.