While the Tom Hiddleston-led The Essex Serpent was technically Apple TV+'s first foray into period storytelling, its forthcoming adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton's final unfinished novel, The Buccaneers, will be the streamer's first traditional costume drama. The series — which someone finally realized they just needed to call The Buccaneers instead of forever referring to it as a "Buccaneers-inspired" property — is set to officially hit our screens this November, and if its lavish first images are anything to go by, it will have been more than worth the wait.
The Buccaneers follows the adventures of a group of wealthy American heiresses on the hunt for respectability and social status among the titled but genteelly impoverished British aristocrats of the late nineteenth century. These young women, often the daughters of nouveau riche families whose wealth came from successful business ventures rather than old money inheritance, could provide these land-poor gentlemen with a much-needed cash infusion in return for the impressive titles and social legitimacy that come with lording it over such large estates.
Thanks to the 1995 BBC miniseries starring Carla Gugino, Alison Elliott, Rya Kihlstedt, and Mira Sorvino, this story will likely be familiar to many Masterpiece fans. And also because it's pretty much the basis for Lord and Lady Grantham's marriage on Downton Abbey. (Cora's family, the Levinsons, made a fortune in the dry goods industry, which made them very wealthy but not exactly respectable in the high society sense.)
The series stars Kristine Froseth (The Society), Alisha Boe (13 Reasons Why), Josie Totah (Saved by the Bell), Aubri Ibrag (Dive Club), Imogen Waterhouse (The Outpost), and Mia Threapleton (Shadows) as eponymous buccaneers Nan St. George, Conchita Closson, Mabel Elmsworth, Lizzy Elmsworth, Jinny St. George, and Honoria Marable.
Mad Men star Christina Hendricks plays Mrs. St. George, mother of Nan and Jinny, and the ensemble cast is rounded out by a variety of dishy suitors for the young ladies, including Josh Dylan (Noughts + Crosses) as Lord Richard Marable, Barney Fishwick (Call the Midwife) as Lord James Seadown, and newcomers Guy Remmers as Theo, Duke of Tintagel, and Matthew Broome as Guy Thwarte.
The eight-part adaptation has been repeatedly described as "inspired by" Wharton's original, which clearly hints that Apple TV+ is hoping to make this an ongoing project rather than a strictly limited series, a la Sanditon or The Gilded Age. And, truth be told, I'm not mad at them about it — if only because this particular property is a natural choice for something like this. It's a setting and premise that viewers will be intimately familiar with, thanks to other series set in roughly the same time period, but it's also a story that hasn't been previously done to death, either. And the outfits! Swoon! (Basically, what I'm saying is everybody wins here.)
Here's the series synopsis.
The Buccaneers are the daughters of America’s new rich — beautiful and untameable, despite the best efforts of England’s finest governesses, they are on their way to London to snare themselves an aristocrat, low in funds but high in class, to make a perfect match.
Led by an all-female creative team, The Buccaneers is written by series creator Katherine Jakeways (Where This Service Will Terminate) and directed by BAFTA Award winner Susanna White (Jane Eyre), who both serve as executive producers alongside BAFTA Award nominee Beth Willis (Doctor Who). The series is produced for Apple TV+ by The Forge Entertainment.
The Buccaneers will premiere globally on Apple TV+ on Wednesday, November 8, with the first three episodes, followed by new episodes weekly, through December 13, 2023.