There are two topics that I try to avoid in casual conversation, religion and politics. These two concepts are at the core of many people and they tend to get very passionate when one disagrees with their view or challenges their beliefs. One only has to attend the annual meeting of shareholders to hear how religion and political beliefs cause them to ask questions that don’t pertain to the core operation of The Walt Disney Company. I am not saying that these topics are not worth discussing, It’s just that when it comes to entertainment, I like to avoid controversy and enjoy escapism entertainment.
I have no doubt that Of Kings and Prophets will court controversy. While I acknowledge there is plenty of sexuality and violence in The Bible, we are not used to seeing the amount of skin and blood on network TV. Even those behind the series acknowledge they are trying to push the boundaries of what is allowed to be broadcast over the airwaves. In fact, the version of the pilot that we screened is not appropriate for broadcast. There is talk of airing an edited version on TV with the more sensual scenes added in the internet version, but this is all just talk at this point. Of course, if a program is excellent, controversy seems to disappear, think NYPD Blue. Unfortunately, Of Kings and Prophets gets nowhere near that bar.
The story takes place one thousand years before Jesus as the first King of the Israelites, Saul, struggles to unify the Twelve Tribes of Israel and defend his fledgling nation against savage enemy attacks. The quick-to-anger Saul is a fierce warrior and as adept with a sword as he is with political negotiations. The House of Saul is comprised of his loyal wife, Ahinoam, the Queen of Israel, their two sons, Jonathan and Ishbaal and two daughters, Merav and Michal. In time, Saul comes to realize that his greatest threat will not come from his enemies, but from a simple shepherd, David.
There is no question that the scope of the series is epic. Filming in South Africa gives the show a unique flavor that could not be captured in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, that is the only positive thing I could come up with in regards to this series. The characters are unmemorable and the story is unengaging. While the acting has strong moments, it is then overshadowed by clichéd moves.
Of course we are not the first folks to have a lukewarm reaction to this series. The series was originally set to premiere as part of ABC’s fall schedule. However, following early reception, ABC decided to retool some elements of the series. I wish I could say that ABC’s efforts were not in vain.
Of Kings and Prophets premieres Tuesday, March 8 at 10/9c. This is the timeslot formerly occupied by Wicked City. I wonder which of the two series will end up airing less episodes. The only upside of its impending quick cancellation will be not having to hear complaints about the series at the next shareholder meeting.