Thursday, March 19, 2009

We'll Never Get to See Bathsheba...

Kings + Queens - Luna Halo (mp3)
Little Man Big Man - Toad the Wet Sprocket (mp3)

"If analogies didn't exist, you'd be incapable of speech or thought."

One of my former teachers and current colleagues once told me this when we were sitting in the school dining hall together. He meant it less to be cruel than to be accurate, because he's a bitter old history teacher, and that's the kind of stuff they say a lot. Usually with food crammed into their jowls.

And he's right. I walk through life in an analogous spacesuit. Everything I see, everything that filters through my eyes and then fires up in small electrical pulses into my brain, is searching for comparatives. It's looking for synonymous experiences as well as opposites. The more connections I can make between that on which I'm focused and other things from my storeroom of knowledge and experience, the more comfortable I feel, the more that focal item or event makes sense.

So, it broke my heart when I found out that a spectacular new TV show flopped with America's stupid viewers.

KINGS is NBC's noble and daring attempt to provide a modernized version of the classic Biblical story of David. It is as ambitious (and flawed) a show as I can recall on regular TV in a while that's not tongue-in-cheek absurdist (see: Pushing Daisies).

I don't particularly care how Biblically accurate it tries to be, because the minute they chose to use the story of David as a starting point, I was going to watch. Where they try to be faithful to the Biblical story and where they take gross liberties and go off on side tangents only serves to help me play the comparative sleuthing game of differentiating the two.

The fun of the analagous experience aside, it doesn't hurt that the show has one of the most captivating and powerful acting presences in the last decade of television. Ian McShane, better known to his adorers like myself as Al Swearengen from HBO's uber-vulgar western "Deadwood," has been handed yet another dream role, this time that of King Saul -- er, King Silas, ruler of a modern American-esque (but smaller) country facing war with neighboring countries and all the other crap modern countries face -- health care crises and the like.

Silas is a stone cold king with a heart the size of the Grinch's. And those who know the original story know Silas will grow increasingly unstable -- mad, if you will -- in the storyline's arc. He'll feel increasingly threatened by David's rise. Silas will resent the fact that God has deserted him in favor of a prettyboy who has nailed his daughter and quite possibly his son as well. (Oh yeah, the show's gonna have fun with the Nancyboy version of Jonathan.)

If it fails to survive a single season, its failure will only signal how great a show it could be. How could I make such a conclusion, you ask? My So-Called Life. Freaks + Geeks. Firefly. Undeclared. Profit. Wonderfalls. Briscoe County Jr. American Gothic. Invasion. All of these shows failed to survive for a second year, and while some are far better than others, all of them are vastly better than most of the tripe that makes the cut. According to Jim has managed to exist for eight seasons and counting. Violate me with a hot branding iron if anyone fondly recalls that show or even remembers it at all by 2020.

Unfortunately, the Big Four Networks have painted themselves into a corner. Shows like Mad Men or The Shield or Breaking Bad or Damages, as awesome as all of them are, would never have succeeded on a big network. These shows needed momentum and a little wiggle room for un-family friendliness. They required patience from viewers and network bosses. They needed to be on networks that weren't itching to cancel at the slightest downward turn in popularity.

Unfortunately Kings is on a major network. It was doomed before the first script was finished, because it required a willingness to suspend disbelief, a patience in figuring out the plot, and the slightest bit of interest in biblical history. To ask America to watch such a show is like asking Ann Coulter to French kiss Katy Perry on national television.

But when Kings comes out with "The Complete Series" on DVD -- sooner than later, it would seem -- I highly recommend it.

Both songs can be found on and iTunes.

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