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NBC’s “Kings” – a good show that no one is watching, unfortunately July 12, 2009

Posted by Jim Berkin in Television.
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Turning up at the bottom of the ratings for its time slot each week, NBC’s Kings remains one of the better shows on network television to come along in a while. It takes a clever concept – a modern day update of the biblical Saul & David conflict – and embellishes it a tad to create an interesting parallel world of sorts, where a 21st century English speaking society comprises backstabbing treacherous paranoid royalty with overtones of spiritualism and intertwined divine destinies.

It’s well written, cleverly plotted, well-cast, cleverly directed, and the acting is fine all around – what else would you expect from a cast led by Ian MacShane at his snarlin’ best?

MacShane plays King Silas Benjamin of the fictional land of Gilboa. They are at war with Gath when David Sheppard comes along and stops a Goliath tank, prompting peace negotiations. David becomes a hero and royal advisor, romancing Silas’ daughter Michelle and developing a competitive relationship with Silas’ son Jack. Now, if you’re familiar with the Books of Samuel (and I know you are, you bible scholars, you), the story of David’s rivalry with Saul is some wonderful stuff – you have treachery, murder, paranoia, angry prophets and even spirits brought back from the dead to predict utter doom. It’s great stuff, sort of like I Claudius all with Jews, and Kings creator Michael Green has done a nice job with translating the basic set up to this fictional modern setting, adding a few items to the mix such as a secret second family for Silas and a brother-in-law who is a warmongering would-be puppetmaster to any usurper of the throne out there, played wonderfully by Dylan Baker in all his dweeb-sleaze glory.

Besides the power games and family plotting that evokes The Sopranos to a degree (especially the way that people inconvenient to the King regularly get whacked), what sets Kings apart is the way it unashamedly includes a level of serious spirituality within its universe – we have omens, divine interventions, a reverend character based on Samuel who has a direct line to God, who is spoken of by everyone, regardless of what side they are on, as an active guiding hand as to everyone’s destiny. I can only think of one other show that deals with religious themes as much and as well, and that’s The Simpsons. All in all, it’s very clever and thoughtful, even to people unfamiliar with the bible story.

So, of course, no one is watching it. As a friend of mine over at NBC said, “it’s obviously too intelligent for people to pay attention to.” NBC ran it for a few weeks last April and when it tanked in the Nielsens, it went on hiatus. Currently, the network is burning off all the episodes it shot & spent money on every Saturday night at 8pm, and if the show truly is to follow its biblical source material, there should only be a few episodes of this story arc left.

But I’m guessing it won’t be back in the fall. Not with five nights of Leno or Suitcase-or-no-Suitcase or Law & Order:Paul Blart Mall Cop Unit or whatever other cheaper-to-produce moving wallpaper will turn up. I can’t blame NBC for throwing in the towel, really – they’re not here to perform a public artistic service, they are there to deliver audiences to advertisers and show a profit, something they are not doing here because the audience has been dumbed down and fragmented sufficiently so that any form of serious drama other than lawyer/doctor/cop seems to be the kiss of death in the age of ADD.

I got an HDTV recently. The picture is absolutely beautiful – detailed, with depth and sharpness like I’ve never seen before. Everything looks better on it. I’ve been watching lots of sports & old movies.

An irony of our times is how our technology to broadcast television gets better and better with the same speed as the actual content of television gets worse and worse.

Back to programming my DVR for all sorts of stuff off of TCM…

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Comments»

1. biscuit - July 13, 2009

You are absolutely correct and it is very depressing indeed to witness the onslaught of the most mind-rotting menial BS that infests TV just to see true gems destroyed because the audience is too stupid to understand… It makes me think of Firefly.

2. Jim Berkin - July 13, 2009

And even with all the cable outlets that can run some cheaper-to-produce scripted material (even ones owned for such purposes by NBC/Universal like SyFy and USA), it still becomes more profitable to put reality-based crap on the air versus scripted drama. When I also see a similar thing happening to movies for the same reasons – thoughtful storytelling squeezed out by example after example of two+ hours of nothing but CGI video games brought to life because that’s what sells better to uncultured/ignorane/robot-consumer teens with disposable income & to overseas audiences… it just makes me think of “Idiocracy”

3. cellconect - July 19, 2009

The only way to get this show back on air is to purchase the dvd in late September. That way what I like to call the “family guy effect” can happen. By which I mean spread the word buy the dvd and hopefully it stirs enough interest for a network to pick it up. This is one of the best put-together shows I have seen i a long time and this might be its only hope.

4. Lauren - August 5, 2009

I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS SHOW!!! Brilliant story, costumes, set, actors & actresses! PLEASE somebody find a way to get a few more seasons!! BTW, they should have advertised this to the MILLIONS OF CHRISTIANS in the U.S. as a parallel to the Story of David; you know how many more viewers they would have? Instead they advertised it as a sci-fi political drama….come on now…that doesn’t even sound good!!

5. Jim Berkin - August 5, 2009

Jews too, Lauren! 😉

I don’t know why they never played up the spiritual aspects of the show & the sources of the story in the Book of Samuel. I had assumed the show had gotten on the air partially due to those qualities, where someone in the programming chain figured on tapping into audience segments that NBC’s other programming doesn’t directly go after. The last episode especially had these elements, and if the story had continued and they kept Reverend Samuels around as an Obi-Wan ghost figure, it only would have increased.

But the reality remains that the ratings were among the lowest and it was an expensive show to produce. Even if the DVD sales approached those of the ones that brought “Family Guy” back after its original cancellation, getting live actors, sets, etc. back together costs more, never mind the lack of ancillary merchandising money (a la Family Guy). It will not be back.

From what I understand, series creator Michael Green still owns the concept, characters and story… if he wanted to license/write it in another format like graphic novels, it would be possible without interference from NBC/Universal.

While an alternate media version would be nice, the underlying issue of the lack of quality network TV remains. Bummer.

6. webdiva - January 17, 2010

Well, well, well. Here we are four months after cancellation, and we can all see just how well the idiot policy of Jay Leno five nights a week in prime time went: it blew up in the NBC execs’ faces, but good. And now the nitwits are scrambling to see what they can throw into that 10 Easter/9 Central time slot. ER’s gone, nobody cares about Mercy (it’s just another ER clone, and nowhere near as good), they didn’t bother to keep the intriguing Life with Damian Lewis, either, and nobody wants yet another formulaic cop show. And all the fun new programs are on HBO, TNT, and USA network. Bet they’re sorry now at NBC that they didn’t keep Kings for at least one more season … just like ABC ought to be sorry about Defying Gravity. Too little, too late now, dorks!

7. Hugo - February 3, 2010

Great show. I think we should send a letter/email to NBC or all other networks. Send a picture of KINGS FLAG and type SAVE KINGS. If we all do this “together mountains can move”. Let’s all spread the swarm of butterflies.

http://savekings.org/
http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/nbcsavekings
and join “SAVE KINGS” on facebook, twitter ect.

8. Jim Berkin - February 3, 2010

NBC won’t be bringing back this show. Other networks might respond, but once a show has been canceled, getting the same cast together again, sets, etc. with all those contracts is extremely difficult.


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