The Intermittent Kevin

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Kings is awesome.

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Kings is an awesome show.

This is pretty much my little secret, since my wife and myself seem to be the only two people on the planet who actually watch the thing. It had crap ratings starting with its premiere episode, and NBC quickly axed it; after a multi-month delay, it’s finally burning off the rest of the 12 episodes at 7:00 on Saturday nights, where none but those with the most prepared of DVRs will see it. (Fingers crossed that it doesn’t end with some epic cliffhanger that will never ever be resolved.)

Kings takes place in an alternate universe where supreme-commander, divine-right royalty is still the way of the world. The story is set in Gilboa, an analogue to the good old USA, with the incomparable Ian McShane as King Silas. McShane’s Al Swearengen on "Deadwood" was maybe the best single character in television history, and he stays in fine form migrating the same bad-ass king-of-the-castle vibe to a much more literal setting.

Kings takes place in kind of a modern Old Testament time, where God is an active participant in the goings-on (the king literally makes a deal with the devil in one especially creepy episode). Loosely following the story of King David – the pilot episode even features a Goliath – the show introduces a young soldier (David Shepherd! Get it?) who’s stuck in the trenches of a long-running warwith the evil neighbor-country, Gath. (Nice name, Gaaaath.)

David manages a morale-boosting bit of heroics on the front lines, and earns himself 15 minutes of fame and a trip to visit the capitol and meet the king. He finds himself thrust into the spotlight (where, big surprise, he falls for the beautiful princess). Various coincidences – some seemingly orchestrated by God himself – cause David to assume a role as Silas’s spokesman, despite the wishes of Silas himself, who sees David as a future usurper. A halo of butterflies is involved. Bear with me.

An ensemble cast populates the palace. Eamonn Walker takes on the Mr. Eko role as the spiritual advisor who, not three episodes in, tells Silas that he has fallen out of God’s grace. (That’ll spoil your lunch.) Character actor Dylan Baker, whose wormy screen presence always annoyed the crap outta me, finally clicks as Silas’s scheming brother-in-law, whose Buy-N-Large corporation has undue influence over the crown. Macaulay Culkin, of all people, guest-stars as Barker’s oddball son. Wes Studi makes for an awesome right-hand military man.

As though the producers knew their time was short, events move at a lightning pace through each of the twelve episodes, some plots proving too trite for one’s liking. The princess rivals Kim Bauer for her ability to get into trouble. Not unlike any given episode of Star Trek, it always seems to be the leads (David, and sometimes Silas’s jealous heir, Jack) who go out on the dangerous missions.

Look, Kings goes over the top into sillytown at LEAST once per episode, so I wouldn’t blame anyone for hating it. The old-timey dialogue doesn’t work as well as it did on Deadwood (though Ian McShane could read Laffy Taffy jokes and deserve an Emmy). The show is frequently pretentious times ten, and tosses out 24-style coincidences to tie everything together. In a word, it’s imperfect.

But you have to admire its ballsiness. It’s a high-concept show with a higher concept than any other I can remember. The simple premise of an all-powerful ruler in what by all other signs should be a liberal capitalist democracy is tantalizing. And I have a Mike Rowe-level mancrush on Ian McShane.

Mmm, sexy time.

Written by Kevin Miller

July 8, 2009 at 8:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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