Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Two new shows I like.

NBC has a new series that started two weeks ago called Kings. All I have seen about it in the news is that ratings have been disappointing. This is too bad, because the writing, acting and premise are very strong.

The premise is both audacious and simple. Take the books of Samuel from the Old Testament and re-interpret them in a modern day setting. King Saul has been re-named Silas, and he rules a powerful nation named Gilboa. He became king of all the land after years of war for unification. His country is prosperous, but not at peace. War is still raging against Gilboa's implacable neighbor Gath. The Gath army has nearly indestructible tanks called Goliaths, but one of these tanks is destroyed by a single soldier named David Shepard, who rescues a group of hostages, including the king's son. The young hero is brought to the capital city of Shiloh, where he becomes involved in palace intrigues.

The first two episodes have been strongly written, and the producers scored a brilliant victory by hiring Ian McShane to play Silas. Very few people reading First and Second Samuel come away thinking, "Boy, I wish we got more scenes with that guy Saul. What a dynamo!" In this show, King Silas is a great character, and not unlike HBO's Rome, therein lies a problem. Rome had Ciaran Hinds brilliantly playing Julius Caesar, but you knew they were going to have to kill him off eventually. Likewise, for David to become king, Silas will have to be moved out of the way, probably by death. So far, David is just a pretty and naive young man, and not Silas' match in any way, shape or form.

There is some hope McShane won't be rubbed out. In the second episode, Silas speaks of a king he killed in the war of unification, but later in the episode we see that Silas had put his former rival under house arrest. This gave us a scene between McShane and Brian Cox, another actor this show is lucky to have under contract. McShane and Cox worked together previously on the small screen in the last season of the late and lamented Deadwood on HBO. It's great to see them playing off each other in a well written scene again.

NBC is not Fox, and so they may give this show which is struggling for ratings a chance. I certainly hope so, but they have had a problem with serious shows in the recent past. While cotton candy shows like Chuck and Heroes can find an audience on NBC, they failed with Aaron Sorkin's most recent and more ambitious show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, a few years back. It had its flaws, one of them being Matthew Perry, but it deserved a better fate than it got.

Another new series that has been on a few weeks longer is Joss Whedon's latest creation Dollhouse. As usual, Whedon's cast is full of the beautiful young people. The guy in the t-shirt in Tahmoh Penikett, who plays the FBI agent trying find the whereabouts of a missing girl, played by Eliza Dushku, the cute little thing over on the right. The not quite so young, not quite so pretty guy in the middle is Whedon.

Dushku's character Echo is missing because she has become a doll. In Dollhouse, the premise is that a technology to erase people's memory exists. These erased people can be given other personalities with specific skill sets. This means the show is going to rely on the acting skills of the actors playing the dolls, most especially Dushku, who will have to play a completely different character every episode. So far, Dushku, who was the rogue vampire slayer Faith in Whedon's earlier shows Buffy and Angel, is doing better than I expected. My expectations were low because much of her career she has been type cast as the good looking tough chick, and she has been able to stretch beyond that in the series.

This show has been on since February, but you can catch up with past episodes on Hulu. Last week's episode added several twists and turns, and besides the FBI agent trying to uncover the secret of the place where people are turned into cyphers, there is also the as of yet unrevealed Big Bad named Alpha, a former doll who recovered his memory and went rogue.

For my money, it's better than Heroes, but I gave up on that show relatively quickly, though it is doing very well. I may still be a nerd, but now that I am past fifty, I no longer have my finger on the pulse of my younger nerdy brethren.

Of course, now that I'm a blogger, I hold incredible sway over the two or three dozen people who wait breathlessly for whatever pronouncements I make each day.

Go, my minions! Watch Dollhouse! Watch Kings! Your blogger overlord commands you!

(Damn I forgot the first rule of being an evil overlord. Minions hate being called minions.)


Karlacita! said...

Yay! I knew you'd be watching Dollhouse, and I agree that it's fun!

Didn't know about Kings, but I'll catch up with it on Hulu. Thank you!

Heroes is crap. The writers can't get out of their own way, and they have no conceptualization of continuity of character arcs.

But I like Chuck. Come on - any show that gives Buster Bluth a role must be supported!

Matty Boy said...

Michael Green, the guy who is in charge of Kings, wrote for Sex and the City early on and had a big hand in Heroes. So far, he's much better with this than the others.

We should totally have a Dollhouse dish-fest by e-mail or phone.

I haven't watched Chuck, so I didn't know about the Buster Bluth employment situation. You are correct, this is entirely A Good Thing.

Lisa said...

I have not watched these programs, but as one of your loyal readers, I feel compelled to do as you say.

Karlacita! said...

The cast of Chuck is very good, and the heroine, Yvonne Strahovski, is just lovely.

But she can also kick azz. And Zachary Levi, who plays the unlikely and unintentional hero, is very charming. It's not Dostoevsky, but it's very fun.

Oh, and Adam Baldwin is in it, so Yay Angel and Firefly alum!!

Rent season 1 on Netflix - it's worth it. This season is on Hulu.

Oh - just found out that Yvonne is Australian. I'm very sensitive to accents, and I would not have guessed she was anything but 'Murkin. She's uncanny!

Matty Boy said...

Lisa - Of course you do. I'm as sweet as sugar, but I bend my minions to my will. If that's what they want, no pressure. (heh, heh, heh. villain chuckle.)

Karlacita! - foreigners taking 'Murkin jobs! That's what really causing 'Murkin economic trouble.

namastenancy said...

I am a loyal minion but I fear that I am giving Dollhouse a pass. Kings - well, the jury is still out on this. So, obviously loyalty does not also come with obedience.
Your loyal but disobedient minion

Undersquid said...

As a pretend giantess, I think it's unwise to call me a minion. I prefer to be designated a maxion.

Kings interests me, but I tried watching Dollhouse, and after several episodes I gave out. It didn't grab me as Damages or Lie To Me has, but while at Hulu I noticed that Our People Patton Oswalt was in the latest episode, and I had to watch it.

I enjoyed it, and no only because of his blatant furthering of Our Agenda.

Matty Boy said...

I've tried Lie To Me because I really like Tim Roth, but my interest has faded somewhat. Dollhouse isn't perfect, but I'm still on board. I stayed with J. Michael Straczynski's Jeremiah much longer than I should have, out of reserve loaylty to him through Babylon 5. Dollhouse is definitely better than that.

The writing on Kings is still very strong, but the older cast is way, way better than the young cast, and I fear what will happen when they are swept away.