Start with The West Wing. Now make the democracy an autocracy. Place that autocracy in a fictional country. Throw in marital strife, filial betrayal, oppressive corporations, hostile nations, wearisome wars, a young hero, and a tyrannical ruler. Pepper in some biblical references and glaze with poetic words structured in antiquated syntax. Do all this, and perhaps you’d have Kings, one of the most promising shows to have been cancelled this year.
I watched the first episode when it premiered in March, knowing little more about it than the premise: a modern-day retelling of the story of David and Goliath. The “high-concept”-ness of that pilot episode intrigued me, but it was the second episode, “Prosperity,” that really impressed me—with its elegance of narrative and of style and with the quality of acting from Ian McShane, Christopher Egan, and the rest of the cast.
Sadly, the show was doomed from the premiere—that first episode only attracted less than four million viewers, and the ratings only went downhill from there. The show was relegated to Saturday nights, effectively being put out to pasture by NBC. And then the last episodes were delayed until the summer (when, too, the final episodes of other canceled series aired).
I don’t often watch a new show when I know its fate has already been sealed. But Kings had captivated me so much that I watched all thirteen episodes. Luckily, the last episode aired was, in fact, the season finale and thus gave a modicum of closure to us fans. It’s a shame that more viewers did not, for whatever reason, tune in to this epic series, but at least it will endure on DVD and (until September 20) on Hulu.