I wanted to like Still Star Crossed (2017) — the show that riffs on what could happen after Romeo and Juliet ends. It’s a historical soap opera currently airing on ABC. The series comes from TV producer Shonda Rhimes and her company ShondaLand, known for mainstream hits like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder. The lead writer is listed as Heather Mitchell, who has credits with most of the ShondaLand shows. In addition to the big-name production company, the race-neutral casting made news. But if you’ve paid attention to theater in the past few decades, you’d see it’s no big deal to have actors of various skin colors playing Shakespeare together, so this fit well on multiple levels.
What really attracted me was the Shakespearean fanfic aspect. As ye olde literary nerd, I love a good re-imagining of the Bard’s work because I feel that the appeal of Shakespeare is precisely in the timeless themes that can be reimagined and explored in different ways for new audiences. Starting with what happens after the play Romeo and Juliet ends could provide plenty of characters and situations to work with. But I’ve come away from the first few episodes of this show disappointed because, yet again, this is American network TV dumbing things down for the masses.
Still Star Crossed bounds along a breakneck speed, complete with silly camera effects, that makes it feel more like a modern superhero movie and less like a romantic drama. The show bounces from poorly choreographed sword fights to weak bitch fights to uncomplicated politics with minimal character development or internal reflection. It’s not as aggressively stupid as TNT’s Will seems, but this show is just a lukewarm mess of people doing things to annoy each other for no good reason.
Rosaline Capulet and Benvolio Montague are being forced to marry each other to unite their warring families and supposedly bring peace to Verona. Rosaline and the prince of the city have a past fling that’s a mild irritation. Neither of their families are super supportive of the marriage, nor does the town think it’ll calm things down. And none of this is particularly grounded in Shakespeare’s plays or in any particular historical era.
Costumes in Still Star Crossed
OK, here it comes. What really gives this show a complete and utter feeling of randomness is the costumes. As in “what random historical period are we in?” 14th century? 15th century? 16th century? Victorian? Modern bridal? Because I can’t tell looking by the costumes. The physical setting is generically ye olde timey — lots of stone walls and candles (with exteriors filmed in Salamanca, Spain, and surrounding towns). But the clothes are a WT-Frock fantasy riff on renaissance, just historical enough to show that the tale does not take place in the modern era, but not enough to be set in a specific year. It’s enough of a fantasy style that if dragons or fairies showed up, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Some costume themes in Still Star Crossed: Modernized ruffs, giant hoopskirts (often with ridge lines), contractually obligated leather pants, modern makeup, frock coats and cravats, overly complicated closures, modern jewelry, heavy handed trimming, and thoroughly modern fabric.There’s even a ‘corset-lacing while holding the bedpost’ scene (without a smock, duh) in the first episode! You might want to get out your Bad Costume Bingo cards for this one and see how fast you score five across. If you do that as a drinking game, we can’t be held responsible for the results.
Lest you think it’s just me and the historical / literary purists being harsh on Still Star Crossed, the TV ratings haven’t been so hot. The show was moved from a Monday timeslot to Saturdays, and according to TVline.com “the cast’s contracts are set to expire, which makes this scheduling move a clear sign there won’t be a season 2.” Buh-bye!
Are you one of the few who watched Still Star Crossed?