“Dreams are a 60th part prophesy…
Learn to read the signs.”
And with those words TVs most elegant, and eloquent parable rose, briefly but brightly, on our screens.
Mixing equal parts religious allegory, alternate history, future tinged fantasy and cautionary tale, Creator/Writer Michael Green and Director Francis Lawrence’s KINGS was something decidedly new and fresh and vibrant and exciting and challenging and smart and of course… being all these things, NBC pulled the plug on it in less than a season, in favor of yet more carbon copy cop dramas.
It is the shame of mass media that tv is littered with stale, boring, uninspired, and ultimately lowest common denominator CSIs and LAW & ORDERS and AMERICAN IDOLS that get renewed year after predictable year, and truly brilliant and revolutionary television, has to fight tooth and nail to make it to a complete season. It’s a shame that Networks are filled with decision makers who continually make the uninspired decision.
The purpose of a pilot, should be to allow the network to be invested enough to grant a show at least an entire season, breathing room to develop and fulfill the promise of that pilot. Unfortunately more often than not, such as with KINGS, the network vultures and ax men begin circling nearly immediately, and the show has to be rushed into episodes and avenues it wasn’t planning for in order to try to assuage networks.
A ploy that seldom works, and didn’t in this situation. In KINGS case the show goes from brilliant with its first 6 episodes (counting the pilot) to floundering, and into a clunky and forced feeling death dive with its 7th episode SABBATH QUEEN, and stays in that rushed uneven keel, till its alternately bombastic and very forced conclusion.
The strength of the first 6 episodes is that lyric writing, and the slow but strong arcs of the characters, which becomes completely erratic, and again forced, with the need to wrap up the story in less than a season.
But the failings of the network in hounding this show to an unsatisfying and unfortunate demise aside, this series is very much worth following and owning for the promise and brilliance of the pilot and the five episodes that follow it.
Because up till then it’s a great example of television as art, with great actors (Eamonn Walker, of BLOOD & BONE and MOSES JONES fame, is one of my favorite actors, anything he is in he brings a weight and gravitas to it, that you can’t see anyone else doing his role as well as him. And KINGS is filled with such brilliant actors), powerhouse performances, lyric, ambitious scripts, feature film sets and scope, great cinematography and location filming, and arguably the most effective and yet understated use of CGI on television, using it seamlessly and invisibly to help create the world and the wonders of KINGS.
And another real strength of the series for me is in its ethnic diversity and casting of strong striking characters who don’t all look like escapees from Dawson’s Creek or Smallville or Whitebread USA.
I’m really put off by shows that have no characters of color or characters of color in token or dismissive/denigrating roles. KINGS is the rare series that is filled with diversity, but that’s not the point of the show, the show is a fantastic riveting, larger than life fable, that just so happens to have astonishing actors of color, portraying people rather than stereotypes, and that’s what I love to see.
And I think part of the issue is NBC didn’t want a show that was ethnically diverse, as all the limited marketing they did… tried to make this look like DALLAS or 90210, something boring and 20something (compare the pics at the top and bottom of this post. The former is what they should have used to publicize this series, and I found only through much hunting, the latter is what they chose to use. If you’re anything like me you find the latter picture extremely uninteresting). NBC had gold, and marketed it like tin.
So KINGS gets the nod as one of the ten best pilots of all time. And its aborted 2009 season, failings and all, stands out as better television than all the inane CSIs combined. Stands out as television, worth your time. And add a commentary and the DVD Boxset gets a grade of B+.
A must own series.