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'Treasure Island' with a twist

New Starz drama blends history, fiction for a surprisingly adult concoction.

Toby Schmitz, Zach McGowan and Clara Paget are among the stars of Starz' new pirate drama "Black Sails"
Toby Schmitz, Zach McGowan and Clara Paget are among the stars of Starz' new pirate drama "Black Sails"Read more© 2014 Starz Entertainment, LLC

THERE'S something wonderfully audacious about Starz's new pirate drama, "Black Sails," and it's not that it features characters from Robert Louis Stevenson in a sort of prequel to Treasure Island.

Although that's pretty nervy.

What I liked, though, about "Black Sails" - already renewed for Season 2 - is that while it looked like a Starz show, with all the pretty, naked people and bursts of horrific violence, it also felt like a show for grownups.

Created by Melrose Park's Jonathan E. Steinberg ("Jericho") and by Robert Levine, and produced by Michael Bay ("Transformers"), the show stars Toby Stephens (a classical theater actor, former Bond villain and Maggie Smith's son) as Captain Flint, who was already dead in Treasure Island but who's here very much alive and intent on staying that way.

Flint's on the trail of a huge prize, one that may elude him if he doesn't get his hands on a page of another captain's log. Standing in his way: John Silver (Luke Arnold), who has what Flint needs.

Back on shore, Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New) has been running a fencing operation for pirates on the Bahamas' New Providence Island, a business threatened by changes in British policy that will eventually spell the end of piracy's so-called golden age.

But not immediately.

It's fun to see history's Anne Bonny (Clara Paget), her pirate hat cocked at a rakish angle, slouching around Nassau, and fun, too, to see Zach McGowan ("Shameless") as pirate Charles Vane.

True pirate lovers might prefer to see more of the pirates at sea, but that, I suspect, would blow Starz's budget out of the water.

- Ellen Gray