TV REVIEW: Revolutionary War Drama ‘Turn’ Doesn’t Measure Up to the Competition

April 1, 2014 | Posted By In Television, TV Reviews | 2238 Views


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In recent years, spy shows have been in high demand, with FX’s “The Americans” and AMC’s “Rubicon” setting the bar high, and now AMC have given us “Turn.” However, the cable network’s newest drama is not quite as good as other shows in its genre, and not really up to scratch with other AMC shows like “Mad Men,” “The Walking Dead” and “Breaking Bad.”

“Turn” is set on Long Island in 1778 and dramatizes the real-life story of the Culper Ring, a network of spies whose work was instrumental in helping George Washington advance against the British. Abe (Jamie Bell) is a young cabbage farmer and father who doesn’t want to get caught up in the social and political chaos. For the most part, he just wants to raise cabbages and tend to his wife, Mary (Meegan Warner) and infant son. But of course, that’s not what happens. After all, Walter White didn’t get the money to cure his cancer from the government, did he?

Reluctantly, Abe is drawn into spying for the Culper Ring. Spying is dangerous business, even back in 1778, because you could never be sure of who was on which side. Sounds good, right? It’s got an excellent premise and with its period setting it had promise to break out from the rest of the acclaimed spy TV shows.

Unfortunately, it’s all very much the same. It’s standard spy-fare and more criminally, it doesn’t use its setting to good use. In fact, it’s very artificial. The settings, props and costumes are so cliché that they’re almost unbelievable. If you took away the red-coats and the wigs, it would have the same effect, which is a shame.

That’s not to say that it isn’t good. Everything in “Turn” is decent, but it could most definitely be better. It doesn’t have the quality that its rivals have, such as the complex and tense plot of “The Americans.”

What it does have is the performance of Bell. His performance is very good, especially considering the weak plot he is given. Bell brings personality and innocence to his role and is very, very watchable. He’s the anchor for the show.

The main problem with the show, though, is the boring love triangle that it keeps pushing for. It’s clear to see that the studio were worried that “Turn” would be one-dimensional, so they threw a tired love-triangle in the mix to brighten things up. Except it doesn’t do that. Here’s the setup: Years before, Abe was secretly engaged to Anna Strong (Heather Lind), but politics came between them and the relationship had to end. Abe and Anna went on to marry others, but there’s clearly still a spark between them. To further complicate things, Caleb (Daniel Henshall), another member of the Culper Ring, has carried a torch for Anna sincechildhood. The romantic drama very basic and seems very last minute to me, and feels like filler. The show could most definitely do without it.

So, the show is decent and brings out a very good performance from its leading man, but it’s not something I would recommend when the competition and selection on television nowadays is so fierce and strong. This one, unfortunately, may very well fall by the wayside.

“Turn” premieres on AMC on Sunday, April 6th at 9pm.


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Liam likes Harry Potter more than he likes his family. He's also partial to Wes Anderson, French New-Wave and John Hughes. He's an aspiring film journalist from England. You can find him on Twitter, @LiamMcmillen.