If you felt a rush of orange light, pretty boys and butterflies last night, it wasn't spring knocking at your door. It was NBC's Kings, which despite its turgid premiere is a show worth saving.
For all of its pomp, circumstance, and instances of silly dialogue, it was a strangely enjoyable and beguiling two hours of pseudo-religious Bible retelling.
It's the story of King David, who defeated Goliath in battle and rose to precarious prominence in a kingdom where the rightful heir to the throne was a mincing gay fop named Jonathan. Jon is Jack in this reimagining, David is, well, David, a tawny farm boy who rescues Jack in battle by standing up to one of the enemy's Goliath tanks. He's celebrated as a hero by the people, and used as a pro-military PR tool by the scheming, conflicted King Silas (the terrific, scenery-devouring Ian McShane). So David heads to the capital city, Shiloh (a thinly-disguised New York—the Time Warner Center features prominently), and wide-eyes his way through all the fanfare—falling for the lovely politically-minded princess, enraging the jealous prince, and eventually staging a dramatic, gorgeously staged truce between his kingdom, Gilboa, and their bitter enemies, Gath.
The production values were outta sight (though, I doubt NBC can sustain that), the acting was solid (especially McShane and Susanna Thompson as his icy bride), and the whole alternate-reality conceit was respectably ambitious for network television. It's sort of a more Earth-bound, less intelligent Battlestar Galactica, with all its talk of religion and scheming, souring political machinations. Plus the people are pretty, swathed as they are in lush cinematography and slo-mo sequences of warfare and crown-bestowing butterflies.
The all-important gay stuff is causing quite a stir. You see, Prince Jack is both a lazy nogoodnik and a homosexualist, as we discover when he is viciously outed to us by his shamed papa (see clip). And isn't it a bit regressive and cruel to paint the only gay character as a jealous, petty, sneaky, cowardly little whiner? Plus, David and Jonathan totally did it in the Bible (see items 10-14), so why can't the show be true to that? I feel the pain of yet another gay character having his gayness be something of a tragic flaw, but I think we can't dismiss it as railroading just yet. We've, hopefully, a season at least to go to see what happens with bonny prince Jack. Maybe he'll see the gay error of his gay ways and become a fawning fan of noble young breeder David. Or maybe we'll be made sympathetic to some tragic love story of his. Or, sigh, maybe he'll just keep being evil and furtively faggy and jerks will nod their heads and point to the screen and say "See? See?"
Still, I'm glad to see any representation of gaydom in this kingdom. Gays can be villains too! (They just can't be villains because they're gay.) It adds another interesting angle to this already layered opera. So it's a shame that a paltry six million people tuned in last night. Let's hope that NBC gives it a few more chances. We need shows that are this original and ambitious—as Battlestar winds down, as Lost plans to leave us in a year's time—even if they're a bit overheated and laughably melodramatic at times (see the Butterfly Crowning, all the way up top). I suggest you give it a watch.