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Stream it or ignore it?

Any movie or TV series in which a group of four or five kids come together and bond over adventures might well have The famous five thank you for their existence. First published by Enid Blyton in 1942, the children’s book series has been made into television series and films several times over the past 80-plus years. In 2023, the BBC produced a new iteration of the book series, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn.

Opening shot: On a beach, a teenage girl looks around to make sure she isn’t being watched. She retrieves the anchor from her small sailboat to go exploring.

The essential: While out on the water, teenager Georgina “George” Barnard (Diaana Babnicova) spots an empty boat she’s never seen before. When she boards, there is a dog on board; his collar says his name is Timmy (in real life the dog’s name is Kip). George sees an oxygen line cut, so she decides to take Timmy home with her.

George hides Timmy in a guest house, especially when her parents, Quentin (James Lance) and Fanny (Ann Akinjirin), tell her she can’t have a dog. Moreover, his cousins ​​Julian (Elliott Rose), Dick (Kit Rakusen) and Anne (Flora Jacoby Richardson), come to stay while their parents are abroad.

The cousins ​​first meet George as she returns from the beach, having found the body of Timmy’s wetsuit owner, which has washed up on the rocks. She shows them the body, then tells them about the curse of Kirrin Island; the island belongs to his father and has been in the family for decades. It seems that treasure is buried somewhere on the island, but anyone who searches for it meets a horrible fate. Quentin has forbidden her from going to the island, but she goes there all the time.

While George and his cousins ​​looked at the diver’s body, a man named Boswell (William Abadie) watched over them. He reports to Thomas Wentworth (Jack Gleeson), a wealthy London industrialist who has been interested in this treasure for some time; it was he who hired the unfortunate diver.

George brings his cousins ​​to the island, and as they explore, Timmy runs away and accidentally falls into a hole in the ground. What George discovers while trying to save the puppy is that there is a secret underground tunnel. This leads to a long-buried altar that contains a goblet; after George grabs the goblet from where he is chained, water begins to flow into the sealed chamber.

The five manage to escape, but when George shows his parents the goblet, Boswell is there, begging Quentin to sell the island. But when he sees the goblet, he immediately leaves to tell Wentworth what they found.

Thanks to his knowledge of Latin, Dick discovers that the goblet is a kind of key to finding where the treasure really is; it has to do with where a 13th century explorer named William Marshal is buried and what he holds in that crypt. The clue prompts the group to take the train to London and the church where the marshal is supposed to be buried. But Wentworth, disguised as a priest, awaits them there.

The famous five
Photo: BBC/Moonage Pictures/James Pardo

What shows will this remind you of? Based on the book series by Enid Blyton, first published in 1942, The famous five has a bit of a Goonies-meets-The Raiders of the Lost Ark feel it. The books have been adapted into films and series numerous times over the past 80 years; this version, created by Nicolas Winding Refn, adds a spooky side Stranger Things-synth-style soundtrack to the mix.

Our opinion : Despite some of the modern flourishes that Refn and his writers (Matthew Read wrote the first 90-minute adventure, split into two episodes on Hulu) have added some modern touches to Blyton’s popular story, but the series is more or less a simple adventure story, suitable for children and adults alike. Things get a little dark and slightly dangerous for George and his cousins, but for the most part, the three stories that make up the first season of this series will see them bond over these adventures, using their strengths to figure things out and then outsmart people. who are looking for what they are looking for.

In a series like this, where a group bonds over often perilous adventures, it takes a little time for everyone’s strengths to reveal themselves. Although not the oldest of the group, George is the obvious leader of the group, and Babnicova plays his brash attitude well. Also notable is Kit Rakusen, who plays Dick Barnard, George’s genius young cousin. His in-depth knowledge of everything, well, is what helps the group understand things that most adults couldn’t understand. Does its encyclopedic knowledge base ever seem a little practical to you? Of course. But on a show like this, where kids find themselves in dangerous situations outside of parental supervision, it helps to have a human computer to get them out.

Anne and Julian are less well defined; Anne just seems like a bratty kid, and Julian seems like a nice, solid guy who is… well, that’s all. But there will be times when they will be tested and we will see what their strengths are. We enjoyed watching Gleeson’s over-the-top villain in the first adventure, which seems to fit the profile of a series like this.

We wish the mid-century period in which the show takes place was a little better defined. We assume this is pre-WWII Britain, but we don’t have many clues to determine exactly when the adventures take place. Perhaps this vagueness is a deliberate choice by Redfn and its writers, to help us focus on the adventure rather than the world around the adventurers. Always a little the context of the period might have been helpful here.

What age group is it aimed at? : Again, there are some slightly scary moments, but The famous five suitable for children ages 8 and up.

Starting shot: The evil Wentworth takes the sword the group found and locks them all out, including the dog! — in the Marshal’s crypt.

Sleeping Star: Kip is a wonderful doggie actor; Timmy is an expressive puppy and he seems even more adventurous than the kids.

Most pilot line: “The last person who called me Georgina got slapped,” George says when she meets her cousins ​​for the first time.

Our call: Spread it. The famous five is a fun adventure series the whole family can watch, with just enough modern touches to keep younger viewers engaged and enough dangerous situations to keep older viewers interested in what happens next.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and technology, but he’s under no illusions: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.comFast Company and elsewhere.

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