The North Water and the case for nautical television

The new AMC+ series raises the question: Why aren’t more TV shows set on boats?

Boat TV.
(Image credit: Illustrated | AMC, iStock)

A 19th-century whaling ballad hitting the No. 1 spot on the global charts was not on anyone's Bingo card for 2021. But two weeks into the year, sea shanties and their ilk had become so pervasive that publications across the internet scrambled to find an explanation for the viral reemergence of songs that were originally composed to entertain and organize sailors some 200 years ago.

While there were all sorts of hypotheses, linking the trend to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to a natural extension of the dueting feature on TikTok, and to the infectious energy of the tunes, the most obvious explanation seemed almost too easy: that people think boats are cool, and it's just our entertainment that has been slow to catch up. Because if sea shanties, of all things, can rise to the top of the charts in 2021, then nautical TV shows — including AMC+'s whaling drama The North Water, premiering Thursday — really ought to have a fighting chance too.

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