‘Deadwood’ actor shines in ‘Kings,’ but biblical update has some flaws

It has love and war, “7th Heaven”-style religion and “Gossip Girl”-style scheming, and the mother of all intimidating actors in Ian McShane.

But watching the first four hours of “Kings” (the two-hour premiere airs at 8 p.m. today, KVBC-TV, Channel 3), I couldn’t quite shake a certain nagging feeling: Holy crap, I miss “Deadwood.”

It’s not that “Kings” is bad. The ambitious new drama is easily the most interesting new series NBC has rolled out in more than a year. It’s just that whenever McShane’s King Silas explodes in a rage, I keep waiting for him to start calling people hoopleheads, or one of the volumes of unprintable slurs and profanities he trafficked in as Al Swearengen, “Deadwood’s” sadistic saloonkeeper.

That’s the downside of playing a larger-than-life character on one of TV’s most mesmerizing series: McShane could single-handedly fix the economy, rid baseball of steroids and buy every man, woman and child on the planet a nice warm Snuggie, and his obituary still would begin and end with Swearengen.

But at least the “Kings” producers recognize he’s their greatest asset — seriously, the man is so good, he could recite the lyrics to Britney Spears’ “Womanizer” and make it sound as though he’d just signed your death warrant — and have cast him in a similarly powerful role.

The drama is billed as an updated take on the story of David and Goliath. But Goliath — in the form of a tank with “GOLIATH” not-at-all-subtly stamped across its front — is dispatched within the first 20 minutes. It’s really the biblical story of David and Saul, or, in this case, David and Silas.

Young soldier David Shepherd (Chris Egan) — Get it? The original David was a shepherd! — is plucked from obscurity by the king after the Goliath incident, because he also happened to save Silas’ captive son during that same daring race behind enemy lines.

David is welcomed into Silas’ court and given a role in his government, largely so the king can capitalize on David’s status as a tabloid darling. (And, yes, the headline really does read “David slays Goliath.”) But Silas soon begins seeing his new golden boy as a threat and, despite the fact that his daughter is smitten with David, orders him killed.

One of the pitfalls of updating such a famous tale is that a good portion of the potential “Kings” audience already knows how it’s going to end. More problematic, though, is just how easily those details can become a distraction.

When you hear Silas’ kingdom of Gilboa is at war with neighboring Gath, it sounds like some sort of Narnian fantasy world where orcs battle dragons or hobbits take on mermaids. But Gath was the biblical home of Goliath, and Mount Gilboa was where Saul died. From plot points to character names, the storytelling is complicated by dozens of other Judeo-Christian allusions too numerous to mention. (Also, every time I tried to confirm them by reaching for a Bible, it burned my hand. Weird.)

If you’re one of the dwindling number of viewers who’ve spent any time at all lately watching NBC, you’ve likely seen the cryptic promos for the show — they mostly consist of some vague imagery and multiple shots of a crazy-looking butterfly flag — and wondered what the heck was going on.

Well, the butterfly motif is everywhere in “Kings.” It stems from Silas’ favorite story, something about how God anointed him by sending a bunch of butterflies to land on his head. But it still doesn’t hide the fact that Gilboa’s flag looks like a tramp stamp.

As for the rest of it, that same goofy flag lends the series a sci-fi sheen that only adds to the confusion: “Kings” looks as though it takes place in the distant future, but the constant palace intrigue and royal machinations feel like something out of the Protestant Reformation.

“Kings,” though, is set firmly in the present, albeit some sort of alternate, butterfly-obsessed present constructed to answer questions such as how biblical characters would have handled the paparazzi, or how they’d have governed had they been beholden to a Halliburton-esque, war-profiteering conglomerate.

But those are just more distractions.

At its heart, “Kings” is the simple story of a small-town boy who has celebrity thrust upon him and tries to avoid being taken advantage of while making his way in the big city.

It would have worked just as well had its young hero been named Jim or Stephen or Blake. Well, maybe not Blake, but you get the idea.

At least then, viewers wouldn’t already know how the “Kings” story ends.

Christopher Lawrence’s Life on the Couch column appears on Sundays. E-mail him at clawrence@reviewjournal.com.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Jason Aldean talks about the possibility of a Las Vegas residency
Country superstar Jason Aldean discusses his feelings about playing in Las Vegas and says he'd be interested in a Las Vegas residency when the time is right at the iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 21, 2018.(John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who To Watch At Life Is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful Setup
Workers preparing Fremont street for this weekend's Life is Beautiful festival, on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The 46th annual Greek Food Festival will feed 25,000 people in Las Vegas
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zia Records Move
Zias Records is moving from its Sahara Avenue and Arville Street location to a bigger store. (Mat Luscheck/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video from Fertitta wedding Sep. 1
video from @wedstagrams of Fertitta wedding at Red Rock Resort
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Brunch Spot The Stove Makes Unicorn Hot Chocolate And Bananas Foster Pancakes
New Brunch Spot The Stove Makes Unicorn Hot Chocolate And Bananas Foster Pancakes. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Octopus On The Las Vegas Strip Predicted The Winner Of The World Cup
The Octopus On The Las Vegas Strip Predicted The Winner Of The World Cup. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
TLC by the Numbers
Watch Ruthless! at Las Vegas Little Theatre
The musical Ruthless! will be playing at Las Vegas Little Theatre from July 13-29. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
How to feel like a kid again in Las Vegas
How to feel like a kid again in Las Vegas
People Lined Up For Over 5 Hours For Build-a-bear's "Pay Your Age" Promotion At Galleria Mall
People Lined Up For Over 5 Hours For Build-a-bear's "Pay Your Age" Promotion At Galleria Mall. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cadaver art and sword swallowing at The Dark Arts Market
Curator Erin Emrie talks about her inspiration for The Dark Arts Market at Cornish Pasty Co. in Las Vegas Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What to expect at Station Casinos' Fourth of July celebration
Station Casinos' is hosting its annual 4th of July celebration with Fireworks by Grucci. Fireworks scheduled to go off on Wednesday, July 4 around 9 p.m. at Green Valley Ranch Resort, Red Rock Resort, Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Pawn Stars' Richard Harrison honored at memorial service
A memorial service was conducted for Richard "Old Man" Harrison at Palm Mortuary in Las Vegas on Sunday, July 1, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Tourists and locals enjoy Independence Day fireworks at Caesars Palace
Hundreds of tourists and locals gaze at the Independence Day fireworks show at Caesars Palace on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
5 must-see bands at Warped Tour 2018
Five must-see bands at Warped Tour 2018
This Banana Split In Las Vegas Is Made With Fire And Liquid Nitrogen Right At Your Table.
This Banana Split In Las Vegas Is Made With Fire And Liquid Nitrogen Right At Your Table. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pixar Pier At Disneyland Is Open With New Food And A New Roller Coaster
Pixar Pier At Disneyland Is Open With New Food And A New Roller Coaster (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Here's What It's Like To Ride The New Incredicoaster At Disneyland
Here's What It's Like To Ride The New Incredicoaster At Disneyland (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"Pawn Stars" fans visit Richard Harrison's memorial at Gold & Silver Pawn
"Pawn Stars" fans from around the world visit the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas following the passing of Richard "Old Man" Harrison on Monday, June 25, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Life
Celebrity photographer dedicates dance book to Las Vegas shooting victims
Behind the scenes with local celebrity photographer Jerry Metellus as he talks about his Dance For Vegas coffee book dedicated to the 58 victims of the October 1 shooting. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Dreamsickle Kids Foundation founder Gina Glass talks awareness
Gina Glass, 35, founded Dreamsickle Kids Foundation to raise awareness for sickle cell disease in Nevada. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Meadows School founding kindergarten teacher retires after 34 years at the school
Linda Verbon, founder of the The Meadows School's kindergarten program and the first faculty member hired at the school, retired in the spring after 34 years at The Meadows. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kids become firefighters at Fire Station 98 open house
Henderson residents wore fire hats, learned about CPR and met firefighters at the Fire Station 98 open house Saturday, August 11, 2018. (Marcus Villagran Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
People from all over the world attend RollerCon 2018
RollerCon 2018 is a five-day convention focused on the roller derby community and culture at Westgate in Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Camp Broadway teaches kids how to sing and dance
The Smith Center's seventh annual Camp Broadway musical theater program gives 150 kids ages 6-17 an opportunity to learn musical theater skills from industry professionals over a five-day period. Marcus Villagran/ Las Vegas Review-Journal @brokejournalist
Las Vegas police officer on being PETA's Sexiest Vegan Next Door
Las Vegas police officer David Anthony talks vegan lifestyle and how he feels about being voted PETA's sexiest Vegan next door from his home on Monday, July 9, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
'NO H8' Campaign comes to Las Vegas
Hundreds of locals participate in the NO H8 campaign founded by Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley as a response to Proposition 8, a California ban on same-sex marriage. The campaign has since evolved to represent equal treatment for all. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Star Wars and Golden Knights mashup at downtown art shop
Star Wars and Vegas Golden Knights fans attend the Boba Fett Golden Knight Paint Class at The Bubblegum Gallery in Las Vegas, Friday, June 29, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like