Monday, March 02, 2009

Real and Fictional Adventures of Robinson Crusoe

It's apparently curtains for NBC's series Crusoe, starring Philip Winchester and Tongayi Chirisa. The show, produced by London-based Power, was apparently envisioned as an ongoing television series. At least, that was the plan initially. The ratings were disappointing, however, especially considering the heavy promotion of the series. The series was soon redefined as a 13-episode "miniseries," which broadcast its final episode on January 31.

Crusoe is, at least in the opinion of this author, entertaining and family-friendly. The scenery is beautiful. The acting is fine, especially from Chirisa (who plays Friday) and recurring guest star (and veteran) Sam Neill.

Unfortunately, the ending of the miniseries is a huge disappointment. I can't say much more than that, without giving away something. But, let's just say, that I was not happy. It leaves you, frankly, with a sense of frustration - like you've been cheated. Maybe the producers and writers were hoping (or even counting) on the series getting picked up for another season. If so, that hope doesn't look promising.

To visit the official NBC site for the series, click here.

If you missed Crusoe, you can watch (as of this blog post) all the episodes for free at But be warned, you won't like the ending.

The Legend of Robinson Crusoe

The story of Robinson Crusoe was, of course, penned by author Daniel Defoe and published in 1719. Written as an autobiographical account of a man's 28 years on a remote tropical island, Robinson Crusoe is considered by many to be the first novel in England.

Beloved by generations, the story has been published numerous times and made into several films.

Even the Tom Hanks film Castaway was a modern spinoff of Defoe's classic. And, of course, don't forget Lost, which in its own way, takes some inspiration from Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.

Most recently with Crusoe, NBC hoped to profit from Defoe's brainchild, reimagining the classic as an adventure story wrapped in conspiracy, intrigue, betrayal, and romance. It is the second time TV brought Robinson Crusoe to life - the first effort being a 1960s series titled The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.

Why are we Talking About Robinson Crusoe at this Blog?

It's true that Robinson Crusoe has nothing really to do with the American Revolution or the founding of the United States. But, if you're like me, I appreciate any movie or TV series that explores the general time frame of the colonial era.

Given the literary heights achieved by writers like Defoe and some of his contemporaries and the heroic achievements by so many of that era, I'm surprised there aren't more movies and TV series set in the period that saw the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the dawn of the Modern Age.

Was there a "Real" Robinson Crusoe?

While the fictional Robinson Crusoe, imagined by Daniel Defoe in his classic 1719 novel, is a shipwrecked adventurer befriended by the noble "Man Friday," the real story behind the legend is much different. The original "Robinson Crusoe," who apparently inspired Defoe, was a hard-drinking pirate named Alexander Selkirk. And he wasn't shipwrecked. He was left on the island deliberately because the captain thought he was a pain in the proverbial backside.

Read "Scientists Research the Real Robinson Crusoe" to learn more about the man who inspired the legend.

Lessons from Robinson Crusoe

The real lesson of the whole Robinson Crusoe story, I suppose, is twofold:

1) It reminds us (or at least should remind us) of all the things we take for granted. Imagine if, one day, you were stripped of all meaningful possessions, separated from your loved ones, and relegated to living a lonely existence far apart from the notice or care of anyone. A story like Crusoe should make us all thankful for even the smallest pleasures in life.

2) When life does get tough (and it most certainly did for Crusoe), we need to make the best of it. Robinson Crusoe never surrendered to despair. He survived and held onto hope. (And, at least in the NBC miniseries, he made a really cool treehouse!)

It's up to us, of course, to take those lessons to heart.

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