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‘The Buccaneers’ really, really wants to woo ‘Bridgerton’ fans as Americans raid London

Alisha Boe, Aubri Ibrag, Josie Totah, Kristine Frøseth, and Imogen Waterhouse in “The Buccaneers,” premiering on Apple TV+.

Although “The Buccaneers” comes with the literary pedigree of being based on Edith Wharton’s last, unfinished novel, the series so desperately wants to emulate “Bridgerton” that it almost makes your teeth ache, down to the mix of corsets and contemporary music. The result is a mildly watchable Apple TV+ series that proves, to quote Fred Allen, imitation is the sincerest form of streaming, too.

Set in the 1870s (and thus covering territory similar to “The Gilded Age,” a statelier version of the privileged rich and mores of the time), the premise hinges on Americans turned loose among London’s elite when they attend the wedding of one of their number, Conchita (Alisha Boe of “13 Reasons Why”), who marries into a British family mystified and occasionally scandalized by the Americans’ brashness.

The core of that group includes the very independent Nan St. George (Kristine Frøseth), a much stronger personality than her sister Jinny (Imogen Waterhouse). Despite her reticence about finding a husband, Nan almost instantly gets introduced to a pair of dreamy candidates, played by Guy Remmers and Matthew Broome, each with baggage of his own.

There are debutante balls, secrets about sexuality and moments of exultation when the young women have a chance to hang out together, carrying on like college students on spring break in Daytona.

Frøseth (recently featured in the movies “Sharp Stick” and “How to Blow Up a Pipeline”) provides a solid foundation to the festivities, and the show strains the durable and dated notion of finding a prince through a feminist sensibility. Moreover, Nan’s family harbors its own secrets, which come gushing out and risk driving a rift between the sisters while creating headaches for their concerned mom (“Mad Men’s” Christina Hendricks), one of the few members of the older generation who isn’t a sneering caricature.

Christina Hendricks in “The Buccaneers.”/ Angus Pigott

“The Buccaneers” is certainly a handsome and well-cast affair, which, like “Bridgerton,” adds sizzle to the kind of costume dramas that flourished on Masterpiece Theater for decades. There are also modest historical kicks, like seeing the Statue of Liberty going up in the distance when the party shifts from Europe to New York.

Even so, everything feels a little too familiar, including the series’ hissable villain, hidden beneath a polished and presentable veneer. The most modern wrinkle, though, might be the characters’ occasionally wearying levels of self-absorption, which makes them focused like a laser on their problems and a little too indifferent to those of their peers, yielding the usual complications.

Consumed entirely on its terms, “The Buccaneers” works reasonably well as a soapy distraction for those willing to check their brains at the ballroom door. That’s still a tepid endorsement for a series that, amid all its talk of proposals and engagements, so transparently yearns to catch “Bridgerton’s” bouquet.

“The Buccaneers” premieres November 8 on Apple TV+. (Disclosure: Lowry’s wife works for a division of Apple.)

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