British import ‘Poldark’ looks good but isn’t engaging enough

Poldark is a huge hit in the U.K., and PBS is hoping for the same in America.

Two and a half stars

Poldark Sundays, 9 p.m., PBS.

In the U.K., where it aired in March, Poldark has become a huge hit, with a second season on the way, and the folks at PBS are undoubtedly hoping it will become a sensation in America, too, along the lines of PBS British imports Downton Abbey and Sherlock. Much of the show’s appeal rests on the smoldering good looks of star Aidan Turner, who plays Ross Poldark, an English landowner who returns from fighting on the losing side of the American Revolutionary War to discover his father dead, his estate nearly in ruins and the love of his life betrothed to his cousin.

Based on a series of novels by Winston Graham (which were also adapted into a popular British series in the 1970s), Poldark is essentially a soap opera, with its focus on the Poldark family’s copper-mining business making it something like an 18th-century English version of Dallas. The perpetually stubbly Turner broods effectively, even if he looks a little too much like a modern fashion model, but the drama is somewhat underwhelming. The show packs a lot of plot into each episode, and that sometimes comes at the cost of substantial character development. Both the scenery and the star of Poldark look great, but the storytelling isn’t quite as effective.

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