Mark my words: you need to tune in for the premiere of “Kings” tonight. It’s an epic drama with the kind of scope that you rarely see on television in series form – executive producers Michael Green, Francis Lawrence, and Erwin Stoff have literally created a new world, one which provides them with the opportunity to offer tales of war and love without offending any existing countries – and it needs to be a hit right out of the box, lest it be canceled without ever having a chance to build on its concept.
If you’ve seen the commercials for the series (and if you’ve watched NBC for more than about fifteen minutes at any point in the last few months, you surely must’ve caught at least one), then it’s probable that at least one familiar face has leapt out at you: Ian McShane, late of HBO’s “Deadwood.” McShane plays King Silas Benjamin, leader of a land known as Gilboa, which, despite being an obvious monarchy, looks suspiciously like America. When “Kings” opens, Silas is preparing to address his subjects, and when he embarks upon his speech, we’re introduced to some of those who are watching it at home, including a young man named David Shepherd (Chris Egan). Unfortunately, despite the optimism within Silas’s speech, we soon fast-forward to two years later, when David and many other men of Gilboa are in the midst of fighting in Gilboa’s war against the neighboring nation of Gath.
You’ve probably heard the “David and Goliath” tagline for the series. In this case, “Goliath” is actually a tank, and after a few of his fellow soldiers are kidnapped by the enemy, David decides to ignore his orders and slip in under cover of darkness to retrieve his comrades. He succeeds, but his superior officer is prepared to court-martial him despite his success. Good thing, then, that one of the individuals rescued from the enemy was Jack Benjamin (Sebastian Stan), otherwise known as King Silas’s son. Suddenly, not only is David avoiding a tribunal, but he’s trumpeted as a national hero…and, perhaps more importantly, the leader of his country owes him a favor. Better yet, though, it turns out that there’s a spark of attraction between David and King Silas’s daughter, Michelle (Allison Miller), who can be a little more outspoken about certain governmental policies than her father would like.
Sounds like it’s just going to be a simple ol’ love story, right? That couldn’t be any further from the truth. This is a deep, deep series, one which explores how nothing is ever as simple as it seems when one is dealing with the government. David is an all-American…sorry, all-Gilboan boy, who fought for his country because it was the right thing to do, and King Silas sees in the wide-eyed young lad a vision of himself before he became so locked into a role by the corrupt individuals who “help” him command the nation. We quickly learn that just because the king can and wants to end a war doesn’t mean that the government will allow him to do so, particularly if there’s money to made in its continuing.
Yep, Republicans are going to hate this show…and that’s almost certainly why the producers created this new world, so they can respond to any criticisms by saying, “Hey, man, this is fiction, so I don’t know what you think you’re seeing…” The fact that the king has a religious advisor (played by Eamonn Walker, late of “Oz”), however, is something that doesn’t feel like a slap in the face to religion but, rather, is more about how, yes, some people have faith and aren’t afraid to practice it.
The word “Shakespearean” is a decent one to throw around when describing the nature of this show, given all the family shenanigans going on within the series, but, really, I have to fall back my opening line: the best adjective to describe “Kings” is “epic.” It’s heavier in tone and concept than anything else we’ve seen on network TV in awhile, and as a cynical old TV critic, my initial thought is that it’ll never last. But that’s not true: it will last…but only if people watch it. I’m not sure if Sunday night is the best place to put it, but you could argue that it’s counter-programming, since it’s a hell of a lot larger in scope than anything else airing in its timeslot.
All I ask is that you check it out. If you can’t watch it tonight, then download it from iTunes or Amazon or wherever you legally download your TV programming. Just try it. If you don’t like it, fair enough, but it’s the best new series I’ve seen on any of the networks in the 2008 – 2009 season. If it doesn’t make it, I don’t want to hear anyone telling me about how stupid TV is nowadays, because you’re being handed one of the smartest and deepest shows in awhile. All you have to do is watch it.