TV review: AMC’s ‘Turn’ is occasionally entertaining, but ultimately dull

Jamie Bell, right, heads up AMC’s mostly mediocre Turn.

Two and a half stars

Turn Sundays, 9 p.m., AMC.

AMC has had a hard time following up on the critical and commercial success of its early scripted dramas Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, and Turn is the network’s latest attempt to deliver a serious, buzz-worthy drama. Set during the American Revolution and based on the true story of the Culper Ring, a group of spies who passed information about the British army to colonial forces, Turn is a mostly dull period drama, enlivened by occasional pulpy elements and a couple of mustache-twirling villains. It’s similar to AMC’s Western Hell on Wheels in its approach to historical storytelling, which makes it intermittently entertaining but not particularly insightful.

Jamie Bell stars as stolid protagonist Abraham Woodhull, a Long Island farmer caught between his loyalist father and his patriot friends, but the more entertaining characters are on the margins, especially Samuel Roukin as a sneering, condescending British commander and Angus Macfadyen as a devious, slightly unhinged enemy agent. Abraham and his fellow spies are much blander, and the show’s efforts to depict the uglier side of the war sometimes feel forced. With the main characters based on real people, there should be plenty of material to explore, but not much of it shows up in the initial episodes.

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