Saturday, March 28, 2009

In Awe of the Majesty of Kings

The kingdom of Gilboa is where the future of TV should be headed. 

Programs like NBC's new drama Kings (set in the fictional land of Gilboa) represent, in my opinion, what television shows should strive to be. Though it's a long shot to remain on the air because of sadly predictable low ratings and an unavoidably high budget, 
Kings is TV firing on all cylinders. It makes no excuses for its medium, proving that the small screen can contain every bit the majesty of the larger, silver one. 

With a central story rooted in the Old Testament (the story of King David), Kings has, right off the bat, an impact of (forgive the pun) biblical proportions. But beyond its tome-ic roots, the show has a grandiose nature that seems almost Shakespearean. 
Echos of Prince Hal exist in the seeming playboy prince Jack who feels like his father's second choice; the power struggle between King Silas and his brother-in-law mirrors many a history play (Richard III and Rivers perhaps?); there has been talk of banished relatives, illegitimate sons, land division, o'er hasty romance, the division of classes, waring kingdoms and descents into madness. And there are two members of the royal guard who serve as a modern day Dogberry and Verges of sorts. Even the language has a poetic fluidity to it, feeling, at times, like a subtle iambic pentameter. 

Majestic style aside, Kings may not be long for this world, but it has plenty of weighty things to say about it. The corruption of power, misuse of the media, morality of war, nature of fate, dangers of politics, manipulation of perception,... the very first episode speaks to them all. In one of the pilot's most poignant scenes, King Silas tells his son Jack that he cannot be the way the lord made him if he is to become king (Jack, by the way, is secretly gay). Later, the king is threatened by his brother-in-law, who uses the threat of economic decline (culture of fear- ring any bells?) to blackmail the king into needlessly perpetuating a war (a war that disturbingly resembles our current one). 

Young David (an outsider among big city high society) struggles with serving his king, himself and the memories of his father and brothers all at once, while resisting the corrupting forces of the capitol city. There are tensions mounting between representatives of church and state, issues of divine right and the moral authority of kingship abound. And a romance plagued with unknown secrets is blooming between David and the Princess of Gilboa. 

All this within the trappings of exquisite costumes, lavish palaces and sweeping landscapes. Classical score, epic wide shots and sprawling cityscapes top off the majestic package that is Kings. Tonally, thematically and technically, Kings takes television to a new level. This show reminds us that the great, artistic and inspiring aren't limited to the cineplex. 


Dorv said...

I agree completely agree (whereas you couldn't pay me to watch Better off Ted).

I think, though, that Kings owes a lot more to the story of David than it does to Shakespeare, as the allusions (Saul=Silas, Abner, Jonathan=Silas, and most importantly Samuel=Samuels) are a lot more direct.

Kelly said...

I read a review where they said that Kings was the thing most like the west wing to appear on TV in a long time. Its a matter of preference. If you're a WW fan you're likely to watch Kings, whereas Better Off Ted is more suited to an Arrested Development viewer.

and I tought it best not to stick with the obvious. The show is based directly on the story of david, those parallels should be all over every review of the series. I wanted to comment on something additional they threw in, apart from their promised premise.

Dorv said...

See, I felt pretty stupid. I had kinda stayed away from previews for Kings as much as I could, and I knew nothing other than "Modern Day Monarchy" until I read the script a month or so ago. Then I was like, "Wait, the tank's called a Goliath? That's pretty on the nose." Then as I got through the whole thing, I was all like, "This is totally not what I thought it was about."

I think its got similar themes as the West Wing, but to me, the beauty of the West Wing was in the writing, specifically the dialogue. No writer, IMHO opinion, will ever match Sorkin's style (The closest I think is ASP's Gilmore Girls).

I've really tried to give Arrested Development a chance. Its my kind of humor (dry, sarcastic, 'smart'), but I just haven't been able to get through the S1 DVDs I bought.

Kelly said...

sure the themes are similar and its scope is comparable but I dont think it's fair to compare kings with the west wing. sorkin's style can never be matched (and I dont necesarily agree about amy sherman palladino- both shows may have quick dialogue but their natures are too different to compare). the rhythms of kings' dialogue are very different from those of the west wing, there's less of a comedy focus, the voices are less distinct, but the poetry of the language really informs the material. the dialogue styles vary too much to compare them just because the shows are thematically similar.