There is a new comedy series coming to HBO featuring Taika Waititi and Rhys Darby about PIRATES and I missed the trailer last week and NO ONE TOLD ME. I am not speaking to any of you. But I will watch the trailer for Our Flag Means Death over and over because it is EXACTLY my jam. The series was created by David Jenkins, the mind behind the vastly underrated and under-seen People of Earth, and features Taika Waititi as one of the supporting actors and also as an executive producer. Rhys Darby, best known on these shores as Murray, the indomitable manager of Flight of the Conchords, stars as the “gentleman pirate” Stede Bonnet, who was frenemies with Edward Thatch and/or Teach, aka Blackbeard—Taika stars as Blackbeard.
The trailer is spectacular, setting both the tone and style right off the bat, and it looks sort of like a workplace comedy but on a pirate ship, done in the tone of Flight of the Conchords. The cast also includes a roster of standout comedic performers like Nat Faxon, Fred Armisen, Leslie Jones, and Joel Fry, and some actors better known for drama, like Rory Kinnear and Game of Thrones’ Kristian Nairn, which will be fun to watch in this context. I am VERY excited for this, the show looks lavish as hell—all of Stede’s fancy coats!—and Taika Waititi as Blackbeard is inspired casting, because that dude was UN-HINGED and Taika can bring big wild energy to the screen.
The pirate nerd in me is also thrilled the show centers on Stede Bonnet, who sticks out in pirate history for his truly bonkers origin story. Lots of pirates got their start because they were already criminals and then started being criminals on the sea, or because they were on a ship that got captured by pirates and got the “join or die” speech and selected “join”. But Stede Bonnet was a reputable man, a landowner in Barbados who had a midlife crisis that coincided with the golden age of piracy. Captain Charles Johnson, the pseudonymous and extremely gossipy bitch who wrote a contemporary account of pirates called A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates describes Bonnet thusly:
[Bonnet] was a gentleman of good reputation in the island of Barbados, was master of a plentiful fortune, and had the advantage of a liberal education. It was very surprising to everyone to hear of the major’s enterprize […] as he was generally esteemed and honoured, before he broke out into open acts of piracy. […] Those that were acquainted with him [believed] that this humour of going a-pirating, proceeded from a disorder in his mind […] which is said to have been occasioned by some discomforts he found in a married state; be that as it will, [Bonnet] was but ill qualified for the business, as not understanding maritime affairs.
Translation: This rich idiot was miserable at home, so he became a pirate even though he didn’t know how to sail a damn ship. There were many bold pirates in the golden age of piracy, but not one so bold as to stand up and say, “I do not know how to sail, make me the captain of your ship.” And people did! For a little while, at least. Bonnet’s fortunes were up and down on the sea, but he did fall in with Blackbeard, and then later fell out with Blackbeard. Stede Bonnet, with his personal conviction that Pirates Can Be Good, Actually, and Blackbeard, with his borderline cartoonish villainy, are one of the 18th century’s oddest couples, the perfect subjects, really, for a farcical 21st century comedy. Between this and Bridgerton, March can’t get here soon enough.