Monday, March 23, 2009

Television Series Premiere: Kings

These days, I don't watch a lot of television as it airs. There are plenty of ways for average people like me to watch TV at their own convenience. I'm surprised I had even heard of "Kings" before it came on the air, but I tend to "hang out" on an online message board community that has a board devoted to broadcast television. Then I saw Ian McShane on "The Daily Show," where they showed a clip from "Kings." After the few words I had heard about it and the brief clip I saw, I decided to give it a try. Of course, I didn't know when it was supposed to start - I only heard today that it's already been on for two weeks.

Thanks to modern marvels (Hulu, in this case), I was able to watch the premiere episode when I was ready. That happened tonight.

It's hard to describe the setting of "Kings." It mainly takes place in the large capitol city, Shiloh, but the name of the country (realm? nation?) escapes me. Ian McShane, as Silas Benjamin, is the king of this country. However, he dresses in sleek suits, not a crown and ermine-trimmed cloak. It looks like he rules over a modern America, complete with skyscrapers, luxury cars, and cell phones. I viewed it as a sort of alternate reality - where we would be today if the world had played out differently.

As the story begins, the "home" country is at war with the neighboring realm of Gath (funny, they said that one enough that I was able to remember it). We follow the story of the Shepherd family, notably its son, David Shepherd. Shepherd is played by Chris Egan (who apparently starred in the movie Eragon, which I have no intention of ever seeing - after reading the book, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to write a positive review of the movie adaptation). Chris Egan startled me, but not in the way I was expecting. About every third shot of him, I noticed a keen resemblance to the late Heath Ledger - how he looked about 7 or 8 years ago. There's a part of me that finds it hard to believe that they're not in some way related.

Nostalgia aside, Egan portrays a stalwart if naive Shepherd, fighting on the front lines of the war. Without revealing too much of the story, I'll just say that events lead Shepherd away from the front lines and to the royal family in Shiloh.

I heard a rumor - one of the few things I heard before I watched the premiere - that this show was originally developed for HBO or Showtime - one of those fancy cable networks with huge production-value shows. They planned only 13 episodes for the first season, which is typical of those networks. Watching it, I certainly believe the rumors (though it was strange to see Ian McShane drinking wine instead of whiskey, and to hear him speak with a relatively clean vocabulary after seeing him in "Deadwood"). The episode was beautifully crafted, with amazing cinematography (is that what they call it for TV?) and a very strong script. I can't wait to watch the next episode.

FYI, the show airs Sunday nights on NBC if you're one of those who likes to watch shows "when they happen."

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