Programming Review: ‘Barkskins’

National Geographic continues to build its original series portfolio with its latest scripted drama, Barkskins.

The series, based on the novel of the same name by Annie Proulx, takes viewers on a mysterious and dramatic journey through the uncharted landscape of 17th century North America through the eyes of settlers from France looking for a new start in an unfamiliar land.

Nat Geo's 'Barkskins'

Nat Geo's 'Barkskins'

The ensemble cast of characters features Rene Sel (Christian Cooke) and Charles Duquet (James Bloor) as part of a group of outcast indentured servants sent by France to populate what is considered New France in North America. The two are picked by wealthy landowner Claude Trepagny (David Thewlis) to build a new settlement in a swath of forest land populated by huge, thick trees.

Hovering over the settlers is a growing rift with the existing Iroquois, as well as English settlers in the region. The series opens with the mysterious massacre of French settlers and sets the stage for burgeoning animosity and mistrust between the various parties.

An ominous display of dead bodies hanging from a tree welcomes — or potentially warns — the new settlers, foreboding an eventual showdown between the opposing clans for control of the land.

The Scott Rudin-produced Barkskins uses the beautifully rich forest scenery as an important backdrop to tell the story of the challenges that the flawed-but-ambitious French outcasts face in settling a turbulent New World. The eight-part series will take viewers through the spawning of new families, from which alliances and enemies are created and tested over time.

Also turning in strong performances are Kaniehtiio Horn, Aneurin Barnard, Zahn McClarnon, David Wilmot, Tallulah Haddon and Marcia Gay Harden.

Nat Geo had originally scheduled to debut its much anticipated original drama series Genius: Aretha on Memorial Day but was forced to push that back. Viewers looking for a quality drama to watch during the holiday weekend will not be disappointed with Barkskins

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.