The “Lion King” Is Al Swearengen
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

Last Monday, Krista strode into the office that morning immediately asking if anybody had seen the premier of NBC’s new series, Kings. I had; I liked it. Krista was obviously excited about the story’s biblical reference point to the story of King David and its compelling analogs for characters — not to mention that she might just be latching on to a new series after Battlestar Galactica’s recent finale. (I know, I’d just write BG, or BSG, but most people wouldn’t understand this short-hand; I know I wouldn’t have.)

Diane Winston, the Knight Chair of Media and Religion at USC who recently published Small Screen, Picture: Lived Religion and Television, had given her a heads up about the show and urged Krista to watch it. Sounds like we may be interviewing Winston for a potential summertime program on what’s happening with religion and spirituality in popular culture.

Like Nancy Franklin, I was shattered when I heard that the HBO series Deadwood was cancelled. My favorite character was the megalomaniacal saloon owner Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) — a man who was as viciously cunning and and pragmatically regal (willing to wash blood stains off his wood floor even though he commandeered from his second story chambers) and inhumane as they come. When he was virtuous, it was often base, but I loved him for his acts of kindness, even though they were somewhat demented.

Seeing McShane on the premier of Kings was like hearing the male cardinal calling out in the fresh spring air after a long, hard, cold winter. Despite all the intriguing biblical allusions, I dig that the show is futuristic without dating itself, and this is where Franklin nails it in The New Yorker:

It’s imaginative, and its familiar outlines don’t prevent it from being engrossing moment by moment. In fact, it’s engrossing in a rather maddeningly clever way, in the sense that you can’t tell exactly when the series is taking place. It could be ten years from now, it could be thirty years from now, or it could be that the world being depicted is an alternative version of the one we’re in right now; it looks like it, give or take a few buildings and the place-names. Watching the show, you feel a tension as you try to decide whether it’s holding a mirror up to the present or whether it’s making an argument about where the world may soon be headed.

Did anyone else watch it? Is anyone else hooked like I am?

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