Tuesday, March 17, 2009

NBC's "Kings" and PTOD

Before we get any further, PTOD is "Prime Time on Demand", and its an option that recently appeared on my digital cable dial. At long last, Time Warner is offering the same shows that are on that week on some of the networks on "In Demand".

I am actually very excited by the implications of In Demand prime time programming. We've had the technology for years, and its finally being taken seriously by either my provider or the networks (no idea who caved first on that one). Sure, not everything is available. I'm not even sure ABC is listed, but I am POSITIVE Lost isn't listed. However, the last few Friday Night Lights episodes are listed (Connie Britton on demand is always a good thing), as are episodes of "The Office".

I am not ready to give up my real time broadcast of shows as I firmly believe in the power of "stumble upon" as a way of finding new and interesting stuff. And I don't know that the networks or cable providers have to give up the standard broadcast model, provided bandwidth keeps apace and all the technology works.

But in 2009, if you do not have digital cable, you are a sucker.

A show that's currently listed on my PTOD is NBC's pilot for "Kings". I was intrigued by the idea when I first saw the show's advertising. My assumption was that Kings would show an America that has settled on a monarchy rather than a democratic government. I was curious to see if we'd have the House of Washington duking it out with the Hamiltons, etc...

I was completely mistaken. I have no idea if I missed all the marketing for the show or what the deal was, but, Leaguers, I wasn't even close. As it turns out, "Kings" isn't an alternate-history US. Instead, its a modern telling of the story of the rise (and should ratings sustain) reign and fall of Israel's King David. Sort of.

I'm no Biblical scholar, and I was well into the pilot, busily missing the huge, blinking roadsigns like "the Reverend Samuel" anointing young David the auto mechanic, and the fact the writers named the the capital of the nation of "Gilboa" as "Shiloh". It was when Jason said "Is that... 'David' crouching in front of the 'Goliath' tank?" that all the pretty pieces suddenly slammed into order and I just let out a groan. I are smart. But, in my defense, I was also trying to figure out what the allegory was between the show and alternate reality USA which led to me running the wrong mental subroutine.

The KareBear raised us much more New Testament than old, and so I was only really familiar with the story of David in bits and pieces rather than in one, continuous narrative. Except for, of course, my reading of Kyle Baker's amazing graphic novel "King David", which I recommend to one and all.

However, a quick Google search last night and I am back up to speed. And can see how someone might have said to themselves "you know, this would make for an interesting TV show or movie". And in order to keep modern audiences in line, and to demonstrate the modern application of David's story, its an interesting translation.

If you're the rare Leaguer who isn't into a multi-season religious allegory, you may be interested in how they represent an all-powerful monarch in a 21st Century context, but reflective of current Western influences, etc... The creators put a lot of thought into monarch as statesman/ government/ religious figure and beholden to corporate machinery. While the pilot leans closely toward the classic story, I've no idea if that's how it will continue on a weekly basis.

The greatest danger, of course, is that the show slips into Melrose Place territory. It seems almost inescapable in the TV landscape for soap opera not to become the focus of a show as writers get lazy and producers become more concerned with budget than story. But NBC must have some faith in the show at this point as there's obviously a huge amount of money sunk into the pilot.

We'll have to see. Its an interesting enough premise, the talent is good enough and the production values of a high enough level that my curiosity is piqued. I'm in for a few more episodes, but it all makes me miss the day of the Big Budget Mini-Series that marked the 1980's and the promise of a beginning/ middle/ end.

One last note, I think the writer/ executive producer on the show, Michael Green, was responsible for several issues of recent DC comics, such as Superman/ Batman. I'd say his TV work is a bit better than his comic work.


NTT said...

Interesting, there was a Vertigo comic that did something similar called Testament. It was retelling Old Testament stories in an allegorical way set in the "near" future.

The League said...

I totally missed that series. Not sure I even heard about it. I'll see if Austin Books has any copies left. I don't know this Douglas Rushkoff's work, but I can check it out.

Green is a comic fan. Makes me wonder...

J.S. said...

I find the show pretty interesting, too, although there seem to be a lot of places where it could potentially derail and go off the tracks. I'm a big Ian McShane fan, though, (he was great on Deadwood) so I'm hoping that this show continues to hold up. Somehow the fact taht it's on network TV instead of HBO has me worried, but that's not really fair, right?

NTT said...

Douglas Rushkoff worked on one of the best Frontline investigations "The Merchants of Cool". It was an examination on the manipulation of youth culture by giant media corporations.