Hit or Sh**: ABC’s STILL STAR-CROSSED

In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.

still star-crossed

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STILL STAR-CROSSED is another Romeo and Juliet spinoff the world forget to mention it didn’t need. In this particular concoction, the feuding does not stop with the fated lovers’ demise as the title so guilelessly suggests. So, Rosaline Capulet (Lashana Lynch) and Benvolio Montague (Wade Briggs) are sentenced to marry in order to put an end to the feuding between the two families, because that worked out so well the first time around. The subsequent execution is as clunky as the premise is incredulous.

Let’s start with the dialogue: modern with a few recognizable lines from the text thrown in. It’s a choice that was presumably made to invite modern non- Shakespearean literate audiences, but it’s not one that can carry the story. Romeo and Juliet was not even an original story in Shakespeare’s time, it was the language that drew people in; without it, the story flounders. The decision to throw in a few “thou arts” into otherwise 21st century dialogue comes across as cheap and uneven.

Truth bombs dropped during the first five minutes

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Moreover, Romeo and Juliet don’t actually get around to dying until past the halfway point of the pilot, so a disproportionate amount of screen time is allocated to retelling their stories. It makes it all the more disappointing that Clara Rugaard is particularly delightful as Juliet. Oh well.

However, the real hero of this story is Rosaline. She’s an emotive and strong-willed foil to her sister, Livia (Ebonee Noel), who just wants to find a husband. So, naturally it’s Rosaline who is chained to an arranged marriage by the hour’s end. And she hates her new fiance. And she’s in love with someone else. And that someone is Prince Escalus (Sterling Sulieman), the man who orchestrates the marriage to unite the kingdom. Love triangle alert. Conceptually it’s compelling enough, but it just doesn’t transfer to the screen. Rosaline and Escalus are all fervor and sweetness, there’s no pull to justify an emotional investment. Rosaline and Benvolio may have love-hate banter potential, but their scenes are weighted down by their brevity and awkward dialogue. Much like the pilot as a whole, there’s a lingering sense of unfulfillment.

“Of course it’s my fault Montague and Capulet only managed to squeeze out a single child apiece!” – Direct quote from affronted male above

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It’s not quite a complete disaster. The location is stunning and well utilized, and the cast is capable and compelling to watch across the board. You want to care about these people, but each time you’re about to get sucked in, you’re yanked out by any number of glaring inconsistencies. The costumes gave up on any attempts at historical accuracy fairly quickly, and while the production’s commitment to racially blind casting is admirable and without a doubt an important step towards progress, it takes you out of the story as you try to figure out exactly how all of these people are conceivably blood related.

STILL STAR CROSSED feels like a failed stab at melodrama more than anything else. It’s a lost cog in the ever expanding Shondaland machine, created by a SCANDAL and GREY’S ANATOMY alum who wasn’t quite ready to fly the coop. It really isn’t good. But it’s not bad in the way that invites hate watching and gleeful explanations to friends about just how bad it is either. It’s mostly just underwhelming and forgettable, which is in a way almost worse. At least Romeo and Juliet knew how to go out with a bang; STILL STAR CROSSED, on the other hand, is a mid-season cancellation away from sliding into obscurity.

Verdict: Sh**

STILL STAR-CROSSED airs on Mondays on ABC

April French

April is a guest contributor for Crossfader Magazine. She believes cold brew coffee holds the answers to life.

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