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TV Review: Netflix's 'Marco Polo'

Netflix's Marco Polo tells the story of the legendary Venetian traveler’s time in China during the 13th century. Starring Italian actor Lorenzo Richelmy in the titular role and Benedict Wong as Kublai Khan, the series was created and written by John Fusco (Hidalgo). All 10 episodes drop on the streaming service Friday. The following are reviews from TV critics around the web, compiled by B&C.

“Creator and show runner John Fusco (Hidalgo) often makes careful reference to the record; you can almost smell the yellow highlighter coming off some of the lines. Every so often the production does wake up, with a sudden brawl or assassination attempt — these scenes at least have energy and sometimes emotion — before settling back into a state of mildly agitated, interwoven intrigue.”
—Robert Lloyd,LA Times

“Handsome to look at, reasonably entertaining and questionable as history, the series luxuriates in a period setting that provides license for all the usual barbaric diversions. Still, having viewed the first six of 10 episodes, if somebody yells, ‘Marco!’ nobody should feel compelled to answer right away.”
—Brian Lowry,Variety

“Full of blood and breasts, and generally devoid of brains, Marco Polo is the sort of project designed to appeal to the largest possible audience, which is probably why I can’t for the life of me imagine it appealing to anyone. The series is a sloppy, clattering mess, intended to draw international attention, not plaudits.”
—Andy Greenwald, Grantland

“Creatively, it’s just a middling mess – something so average that a basic cable channel could have duplicated it without all the foreign travel for about $84 million less.”
—Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter

“Six of the 10 episodes of the first season were made available to critics, and for much of the time, I almost found myself wishing, for a change, that the network had sent fewer. Usually, critics gripe because it’s hard to judge a new series on the basis of one episode alone.”
—David Wiegand, San Francisco Chronicle

“Richelmy is likable but short on presence and depth. Marco's arc, tracking the maturation of a naive, passive man-child into a toughened romantic hero, only accentuates this. Maybe he'll grow as his character does. For now, he stands for a show that has some kung fu but requires the patience of a grasshopper to see it.”
—Jeff Jensen,Entertainment Weekly

“You can’t say Marco Polo isn’t committed to spectacle and popcorn entertainment, and that may make it a hit worth its price tag. But it reminds me of the Simpsons episode in which Homer gets to design a car that has every feature he wants, and ends up with an expensive monstrosity that includes bubble domes, multiple horns and shag carpeting. It may be that Netflix really knows just what we want. With Marco Polo, it’s giving it to us good and hard.”
—James Poniewozik, Time