Will premieres July 10 at 9pm on TNT.
By Chris Flanagan
I appreciate a show like Will on many levels. Not because it’s great, or even good television, but because it attempts to be bold and take risks with its storytelling, vision, and characters. However, much is lacking in a show that paints itself as a drama but teeters at times towards parody.
Will transports viewers to Elizabethan times focusing on a young William Shakespeare who arrives in London with dreams of becoming a famous playwright. This version of 16th Century London is depicted as a very punk-rock, bohemian place to be, with peasants wearing colorful outfits and garish makeup all set to a very driving and modern(ish) soundtrack. These are some of the risks that the show chooses to take, and while it takes some getting used to I will admit that I began to like it after a while. It is truly something different and sometimes telling the same story with a slightly different perspective or focus is needed.
The cast is comprised of newcomers, most notably Laurie Davidson as William Shakespeare, but there are some familiar faces on screen in Christopher Marlowe’s Jamie Campbell Bower and James Burbage’s Colm Meaney. Among others, these players are great to watch and ultimately do their best to bring a different feel to a well-trodden story. They are part of the reason I kept coming back when in all likelihood, I should’ve left a show like this well after the first episode and believe me, I tried, but there was something that kept gnawing at me after I finished the first episode. Something I couldn’t put my finger on but kept pulling me back to watch another episode just to see what would happen next. I can attribute this feeling in two ways;
1: Part of me liked watching the car crash that is Will, and wanted to see if or how it could pull itself out of the wreckage and make something interesting and of note by season’s end.
2: My love of history and the intriguing story of Shakespeare kept my interest piqued as to how they were going to interpret aspects of his life as well as his work.
After watching the first several episodes the writers managed to begin to build something interesting on screen as well as shed light on some of the lesser known parts of the playwright’s life. All of this is bolstered by a cast that provides unique versions of very well-known historical figures.
Will is not a great show, but there is something there beneath the surface that kept me returning to it. It was an ember of possibility that held the potential to grow into something not great, but interesting. Truthfully, sometimes that ride can be way more fun than that of greatness because there is no pressure and you are free to create and interpret as you please. Will fits that measure completely. It knows it’s off the beaten path. It knows that some will easily be turned off or away from its interpretation of the greatest literary figure of modern history. But it goes through with it anyway and there is something worth watching in that. I don’t see viewers being patient enough with Will long enough to see it grow into something more and to be completely honest it may never arrive at that point, but that is why we give our time to shows that we know aren’t great: to see them slowly become something we’ve wanted to watch all along.
Will is definitely an acquired taste. One that if you are still with it by the end of the first episode I would urge to you press on and stay with it a little longer. If you are not interested after the premiere episode, then move on. No harm. No loss. After all, there’s plenty of other fledgling shows that need attention during the summer months that are trying to be seen. As for myself, I will at least see this through its first season and I know good and well I will chalk this one up to be my guilty pleasure watch for the summer.
I give Will a C+.