“We give up what we want when we want power.”

For every Office or 30 Rock NBC gives us, they also give us two Knight Riders and a Crusoe, so after tonight’s premiere of Kings, I’ve got my fingers, toes, and other assorted body parts (two of them?!) crossed that the network sticks with it. Like Art Linkletter, I heartily endorse this product.

For those who haven’t heard anything about it, Kings is a modern, soap-opera style take on the David and Goliath story. It centers around David Shepherd (wink wink, get it?), who rescues the son of Benjamin Silas, King of Gilboa, after he’s taken hostage during Golboa’s war with the neighboring country of Gath. As reward, King Silas brings David into the world of high society and government intrigue. If that sounds like a lot to take it, it really is, and that’s what makes the show so exciting. It seems like with the rise of DVR and the changing face of broadcast media, more and more networks are playing things safe, and are, for the most part, really shying away from doing anything big and innovative. Kings is both. And with my beloved Battlestar Galactica coming to an end next week, and Lost following a year from now, it’s great to see a show so completely swing for the fences.

If for no other reason, people should tune into the show just to watch Ian McShane walk around and talk for an hour. McShane, who put the words hooplehead and c**ksucker in all our vocabularies as Al Swearengen on HBO’s Deadwood, fits in perfectly here. Especially because much of the show’s language seems to be a mix of Shakespeare and the Bible. McShane serves as the patriarch to a promising cast. Christopher Egan as David – who also looks a lot like Heath Ledger – plays the small town boy who’s just been thrown into the big leagues without looking doe-eyed and disingenuous. Sebastian Stan, plays Silas’ son, Jack, who’s jealous of the attention being thrown on David by the press and his father is sure to develop into one of the show’s main villains is brooding without resorting to that, “My name is Syyyyllaaaarr!” tomfoolery that’s ruined Heroes. There was a lot set up in tonight’s episode, and the cast was able to pull it all off without it feeling forced or unrealistic. And as far as the cast goes, Kings has some great guest spots lined up. Brian Cox, Leslie Bibb, and the triumphant return of Macaulay Culkin, to name just a few.

Eamonn Walker plays Reverand Ephram Samuels, whose character gives us a glimpse of how big a part religion is going to play in the show. Not in a way that makes you feel like you’re being preached to, but something that will help move the story along. I’ll try not to ruin anything for those who haven’t seen it, but a prophesy Samuels makes seems to have very real implications by the end of the premiere.

Of course,  I’ll say this and the show will be canceled next week, but I really think Kings has a good chance of sticking around for a while. It really seems to have snuck in under the radar. I think that will probably work in its favor, unlike other shows – 2006’s much-lamented Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip comes to mind – that are so completely over-hyped that if they aren’t overnight successes they’re declared failures and gone before they have a chance to find an audience.

Kings also has a serialized element, and judging from the first two hours, is handling it a lot better than any of the Lost rip-offs we got during the diasterous “serialized shows make money!” 2006-2007 television season. The premiere has already left us with a lot of questions. What’s up with King Silas’ other wife and son, whom we caught a glimpse in the first episode? What’s his relationship with Crossgen (who seems to be financially propping up Gilboa), what do they do, and how did they put Silas in power? When NBC ordered Kings to series, creator Michael Greene was said to have already mapped out the show’s 13-episode first season. It’ll be interesting to see how Greene, a veteran of NBC’s Heroes, lets all these plotlines play out.

Just a few things I liked about tonight’s episode…

  • The royal historian. I thought it was an interesting idea that they record everything Silas does, down to his day to day activities, like they’re writing their own scriptures.
  • Whoever’s in charge of the music. There’s a scene toward the end with King Silas watching a Gilboan counter attack with his generals on either side of him. The entire thing was scored beautifully.
  • Austeria, another country they make mention of. I’m really interested to see more of this world’s politics. Wondering if any countries or governments we recognize will ever show up.

I set this one up as more of a formal review just to kick things off. But in the coming weeks I’d just like to do a quick recap with a few highlights just to start some discussion, so stay tuned. If anyone has any thoughts on tonight’s episode, post them here.

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