What do you get when you gather Ian McShane, Arrow’s Susanna Thompson, Oz’s Eamonn Walker, and Macaulay Culkin? Only one of the most underrated shows in recent memory, NBC’s Kings.
Kings premiered on NBC in the fall of 2009 to little fanfare. It followed the story of King Silas Benjamin (Ian McShane) and his family in the infancy of the new kingdom of Gilboa. A nation created after a brutal with a neighboring enemy of Gath. Fast forward a couple of years and they are still at war with Gath, and a young man by the name of David Shepherd (Christopher Egan) whose father was killed in the “Reunification” war, is now fighting for Gilboa. Through a series of providential events, David ends up saving the son of King Silas, Jack Benjamin played by Sebastian Stan. This thrusts the previously quiet and unassuming country boy into the inner workings of Gilboa’s government and the king’s family.
The story, created by Michael Green, is loosely based on the biblical David and Goliath. Don’t let that turn you off though. I am the last person that gets all giddy over a bible story fashioned into something modern, but trust me, this is far from the warm and fuzzy story you might remember. While there are obvious correlations between the two, the show does not come across as preachy in a way that is off-putting. Even though King Silas likes to give the image that he is a man who a god would take favor on and grant him a kingdom, really that is only his public persona, behind closed doors, he is anything but.
So, why should you watch Kings? If nothing else, because it is beautiful. They based Shiloh, Gilboa’s capital city, on a re-imagined New York City skyline and frankly, the city has never looked better. Besides that, the use of color and shadows is stellar. It’s one of those shows that you can tell quite a bit of time and money went into how the show looked. But what if you are one of those people that doesn’t really notice sets or lighting or crap like that? Well then surely the characters of Kings will catch your attention.
Given that Ian McShane could read the phone book (do phone books still exist?) and still find a way to be riveting, it comes as no surprise that he is fantastic as King Silas Benjamin. It doesn’t matter if he’s standing on a balcony channeling his inner Eva Peron or cruelly insulting his son on the capital steps, he does it all with an energy that is both impressive and frightening. You quickly learn that good ol’ King Silas is not a man you want to be in the cross hairs of, as things will more than likely not go your way.
Jack Benjamin is everything you could want in an antagonist; he even has the “I’m not totally sure if I should love, hate, or feel sorry for this character” quality that brings an audience further into the story. There is so much to Jack that we didn’t even get to see which makes the show’s cancellation all the more bitter. As the one season progresses we find out why there is so much bad blood between he and his father, why he takes such issue with David coming around, and why he wants so badly to be king. If King Silas wasn’t as interesting as he is, Jack Benjamin would easily be the focal point of the show.
Forget the guys though, because one of my favorite characters on the show is that of the Queen, Rose Benjamin. Much like Moira Queen in Arrow, Susanna Thompson plays a matriarch who is one of those women who knows everything but is has decided to pick and choose what she believes. She is one of those that you can just see the wheels turning in her head and she tries to keep everything straight.
As for David Shepherd? He honestly looks like a little lost lamb in the midst of all the deceit, lying, and corruption of the Benjamin family. Well not only the Benjamin family but Rose’s family (brother and nephew) as well but we don’t get to see a lot of that unfortunately. Had there been at least another season I’m sure we’d have seen David fall into the role that we know, through history, he’d one day fill. But because there was no second season we are just left with the memory of a David just starting to get his sea legs.
That’s just the main four in a cast that has plenty of interesting people to watch, not the least of whom, Eamonn Walker who plays a preacher who at one point in time played the role of spiritual director to the king. Add in Dylan Baker and Macaulay Culkin as the Queen’s brother and nephew and an entire host of royal staff, cabinet members, and biographers, and there is no shortage of people to watch in this show.
So now that I’ve convinced you that you NEED to watch this show, and told you how awesome it is/was, why was it canceled? A myriad of reasons really. First, NBC. Unless you are a person like myself who really studies upcoming schedules and reads what shows are being produced, you could have easily missed Kings. Unlike the advertising juggernaut that NBC put behind the television masterpiece, Animal Practice, there was little to no promotion of this show. Then they changed the night it aired and ultimately pulled it from the schedule before it really got a chance to gather up an audience. Also I really do think it would have had a better future if it’d premiered this year (or in the next few years) as opposed to almost four years ago. As much as cable and satellite companies hate it, the internet is changing the way we watch TV. Back in 2009 when Kings premiered, watching something streamed on the internet was still a bit of a novelty, amazingly enough. Now we have so many options which in turn provides so many new chances for shows to gain viewers.
However, as much as I’d love to place the blame for Kings demise solely on NBC and the lack of internet streaming, it is the American viewing public that contributed in a major way. If it is to be believed that reality TV is on the downturn, (Dear whatever deity is listening at this moment please let this be the case.) when this show came on the schedule, reality TV was in it’s heyday. Sadly that is all it appeared that America wanted to watch and the networks were noticing that and not letting shows like Kings stick around for long. This is why we now have a situation in which The Voice airs three times a week.
Now, having said all that the question remains- should you take the time to watch Kings even though it is just the one season? YES! Even though the story doesn’t wrap up as nicely as I might have wanted, the writers and producers did have enough of advance notice of their cancellation that they did have a chance to end the show in a somewhat complete fashion. Even if they hadn’t, it still is worth your time because it was that good of a show.
To get you started- the pilot episode of Kings. Enjoy!