Friday, June 19, 2009

'Kings' vs. 'Merlin' on NBC - Sepinwall on TV

In today's column, I look at the premiere of NBC's "Merlin" and how it relates to the demise of "Kings" (which, as of now, is still scheduled to air tomorrow night).


Omagus said...

Not only do these shows become self-fulfilling prophecies but the major networks have become victims of their own habits.

Ever since NBC yanked Boomtown off the air after little more than a season, I have given up on trying to get into new shows on network television (Lost is the sole exception). It is simply not worth the effort of developing an interest in characters and plot if the networks are likely to cancel the show. Instead, I wait to see if the show is going to last and THEN I start watching. Of course, the problem is that if there are enough people that think like me, then the shows are going to have lower ratings early on, which leads to these very cancellations.

I am much more likely to start watching a new show on cable television since HBO, Showtime, TNT, USA, etc seem much more committed to them early on. At the very least I know that I'll get an entire season to watch.

Robert said...

The other problem with Kings was the absolutely horrible promotional job NBC did before it aired. Here you have a classic story of interest to a huge chunk of the population by nature of its origin--which they NEVER one time mentioned. Instead it got sold as some kind of "modern monarchy meets 90210."

I would never have watched it even once without Alan's preview that pointed out what the story really was (and thanks a lot for getting me interested in yet another quickly cancelled show!). If they had marketed it properly...and perhaps not aired it in a time slot when a significant chunk of the most interested audience was at church...I think it could have had a chance. But even then, given Alan's point in the column about the relative costs...still, I hate to see it go. Hopefully they'll air the rest. If not, I know DVD what I'm getting for Christmas.

Nicole said...

I am sure that more promotion would have helped, but I am not sure that NBC could have ever gotten a large network audience to watch this. The average programming on the network now is either dumbed down sitcoms, or crime procedurals and ridiculous reality shows. Network audiences aren't trained to be patient anymore and I suspect the Shakespearian like cadences turned off a lot of people. I think a show like Mad Men would have suffered the same fate had it not started on AMC. If Kings was flipped to a cable network, I think it would have done much better.

As for Merlin, while there is a Smallville comparison, it also surpasses that show with the performances of most of the actors. I really liked young Merlin and the relationship with his mentor. The series also messes with the mythology, so as long as people can get over that, it's a pretty fun ride, especially for the summer. (Mind you I think it's a better show than anything else on NBC right now, except for Chuck, the Office and 30 Rock)

AmericanPatriot said...

I won't lie, I'm a big fan of Kings. Initially, I didn't have much interest in watching it due mostly to the poor advertising NBC did. They did a poor job of representing what the show was about. Had they shown scenes of David blowing up the Goliath tank, I'd have set my TiVo to record it faster than an African gazelle outrunning a cheetah! I did have some concerns about how the writers would make something that was a couple of books in the Bible into a long-running drama. I thought it would have been better as a mini-series, so maybe this is a coup-de-grace. But I am still sad to see it go.

As for Merlin, it seems, at least from the previews, the cinematography decidely mediocre. The special effects seem cheap and undeveloped, at least from the previews. Is it really as "low-budget" as it looks, or am I making stuff up?

LinGin said...

American Patriot - I think your comment is interesting because if NBC had spotlighted the tank incident I might not have been interested. I'm attracted to the alternate history idea. But it also shows they had could have interested a diverse audience had they managed a better promotional campaign.

Prior to the first episode I found that the network had set up a website for the show but it was poorly thought out and it didn't draw me deeply into the show. I was going to watch anyway so no big deal there but again, they might have attracted more viewers had they done something better.

The only other thing I can think of is that NBC set this up to fail because of the expense of this show. It has a large cast and films in Manhattan and I think NBC has reached its quota of NYC-based film with the L&O franchise.

I know NBC-Universal owns USA and, I think SciFi (or SyFy) and some others so maybe they'll rerun it on one of those.

Tracey said...

Ah yes... I remember the Lone Ranger with Chad Michael Murray... I had to IMDB it to make sure I was remembering correctly, but oh yes, I remember that, for a reason that was hilarious, but certainly unintentionally so.

You see, The Lone Ranger featured a character who was a wise Native American mystic (not Tonto; another character who gave both the Lone Ranger and Tonto mystical guidance). And that wise old mystic was played by Wes Studi.

For those who don't remember: Wes Studi was in Ben Stiller's Mystery Men, playing The Sphinx, another wise old mystic whose cryptic utterances were all circular and meaningless. "Until you master your fear, your fear will be your master." So every time Wes Studi's character in The Lone Ranger said something mystical, I just burst out laughing, picturing him as The Sphinx.

jana said...

I liked Kings immediately and recognized the Bible story right away even though it wasn't promoted as such. What I thought was interesting, though, was that it premiered just as President Obama was settling in to office.

katie1421 said...

That's a shame about Kings.

I watched Merlin during it's original UK run, and while it can be a bit of a lightweight, it can also be really endearing. I can't imagine it doing terribly well over here, though.

Gen said...

I began switching the channel away from the major networks when they started filling their schedules with "reality" programming and crime procedurals. You rarely find an original, quality show on the major networks, and when you do, the networks don't know what to do with it to make it work. Shows like "Lost" and "Chuck" are rare exceptions.

More and more, I'm spending my time enjoying the cable networks like USA ("Burn Notice"), TNT ("Leverage"), and BBCAmerica. If I want a little reality on the small screen, the Discovery Channel has great shows like "Storm Chasers" and "Out of the Wild: The Alaska Experiment" (which just wrapped up, actually).

LinGin said...

Alan, I hope you don't mind if I sort of shill for Amazon, but I placed my pre-order for "Kings" when Neena made me aware that it will be available on DVD.

The price is just under $50 and guaranteed at this price or less. I received an email today that their ship date has been pushed back till October 1. I"m hoping that all closet "Kings" fan who read Alan's blog pre-ordered from the retailer and upped the number of DVDs they need to stock. (How's that for kissing up to Mr. Sepinwall?)

Mike F said...

I had no idea Kings even touched on David and Goliath, etc etc. From the previews, I just thought it was about an alternate universe where the USA was ruled by a monarchy.

I love the Davidic-era I want to go and watch the show from the start...or maybe not...since they probably won't even show the whole first season.


anita7601 said...

I am excited to hear that NBC is finally airing Merlin. Aside from my weekly fix of Burn Notice, I haven't turned on my television this month. I'll finally have a 2nd show to watch this summer! I'm so looking forward to seeing Season 1 again. (I also saw it on it's original run in the U.K)

amitytv said...

Alan, are you going to blog any further on the Merlin episodes? Just curious. I just got to watch the first two today. Overall, I liked it, but sometimes the acting feels hokey.
It feels very close to a mini-series from a few years back, one that centered around fairy tales but was more for adults. Wish I could remember the name of that one.

Greg said...

I am a huge fan of kings. It's got a great trailing storyline and the film/production work is fantastic.
NBC has a history of cancelling amazing shows after one season that wasn't perfect. ONLY because of their lack of promotion.

Jericho is a great example. Great show, great writers, great actors.
as I recall there was even a campaign to save it for a second season.

I have to say, I watched 2 episodes of merlin, and i'm completely disappointed. Kings is 1000x the show merlin will ever be. How do they think a goofy, shabby, badly written show like that will take off? I don't know, but lets throw promotion at it!

I think NBC might stumble onto something if they learn to put that much effort into their GOOD shows.


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