Series creators expect ‘Kings’ to rule the night

Posted March 13, 2009, at 7:32 p.m.

Apparently Michael Green didn’t get the message that the American TV viewer has no attention span.

After all, open-ended TV dramas, excepting nighttime soaps, have been taking a beating lately. There hasn’t been a successful serial launched since “Lost” five seasons ago.

Procedurals are neater. They wrap up in one hour, with little necessary to remember for the next week. Also, they are less disrupted by events such as last year’s writers strike or a possible work stoppage by actors.

Green should know better, as his last series, “Heroes,” has been suffering from a steady decline of viewership for the last two seasons, because keeping track of all those characters and plot lines is just too much work.

Still, with “Kings” (debuting at 8 p.m. Sunday on NBC), creator Green has updated an old epic story: David vs. Goliath. (A biblical reference. That’s another strike against it.)

“Kings” is set in the fictitious country of Gilboa, which is ruled over by King Silas Benjamin (played by Golden Globe winner Ian McShane, “Deadwood”). Gilboa has a shining new capital city, Shiloh.

Tensions and skirmishes are rising between Gilboa and neighboring country Gath. When several prisoners of war are taken, a young soldier, David Shepard (Chris Egan), defies orders and rescues them. One of the prisoners turns out to be Jack Benjamin (Sebastian Stan), the king’s son.

Shepard’s life will never be the same again. He’s whisked off to Shiloh for a hero’s tribute. He falls for Princess Michelle (Allison Miller), much to the displeasure of snooty queen Rose (Susanna Thompson).

While a fragile peace treaty is being carved out, palace intrigue is rampant, with Silas receiving advice from Gen. Linus Abner (Wes Studi), the Rev. Ephram Samuels (Eamonn Walker) and his brother-in-law William Cross (Dylan Baker), a ruthless corporate tycoon. Of course, everyone has secrets, except for the farmboy-turned-soldier David, who finds himself caught in the middle of everything.

“Kings” has the advantage of being placed in a time slot where it’s up against two reality shows and animation. So it’s the only drama available then. However, NBC saw fit to pair it with the latest installment in the limp “Apprentice” series, which can’t help it out with ratings.

It would be nice if viewers gave “Kings” the royal treatment it deserves, for bringing McShane and Thompson back in a meaty drama. But the series requires work, with lots to remember week to week. If “Kings” were to succeed, it would be a crowning achievement for thinking, serial drama.

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