Camelot - 101 - Pilot
STARZ' Camelot seems to have a lot more in common with Disney's Legend of the Seeker than it does with STARZ' other historical\mythical drama Spartacus.
As with Seeker we get a young man (Arthur) who is told that he is not an obscure farm boy but destined to be the most important man in the Kingdom. He is taken under the wing of a sorcerer (Merlin) and eventually loses his own family and fronts up to an evil enemy (half-sister Morgan and King Lot). Sadly as I found with the Seeker pilot, there wasn't a lot to care about here. We spend no time seeing Arthur in his normal life and so we have no reason to see qualities in him to admire yet.
Instead of finding a way to help us to relate to his situation the dialogue was needlessly mysterious and vague:
"My instincts aren't that of a King" - "What if they are and you just don't know it yet?"
"What if I'm wrong?" - "You can't be!"
Then as the big confrontation at Camelot goes down we discover that a man Arthur randomly killed is Lot's son and so Lot drags Arthur's mother in and kills her. This kind of blood feud not only feels trite but pushes us to feel bad for Arthur without the grounding for this tragedy to have much impact.
The thin and vague writing isn't helped by the acting. Morgan (Eva Green) is fine but Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower) and friend\brother Kay (Peter Mooney) are fairly anonymous and plain. Lot (James Purefoy) is disappointingly hammy in the bad guy role and then we have our old friend Merlin. I say old friend because STARZ chose to cast Joseph Fiennes, Shakespeare in Love to some of you but perhaps forever Mark Benford from Flashforward to me. In my short career as a TV Critic that leading man performance remains incredibly awful and forever made me question Fiennes intelligence as an actor. The fact that he chooses to play Merlin with the same stoic intensity that he used on Benford doesn't fill me with confidence. The producers seem to have left Merlin's role fairly ambiguous here which means Fiennes might well have had the choice to bring some warmth, wit or wisdom to the role but there's none of that on display.
I will give the show another chance but this was a deeply disappointing debut. What Spartacus did so exceptionally was to peel back the layers of Roman Society and reduce much of the drama to the simple desires and needs of its protagonists. Anyone can follow simple tales of jealousy, ambition, love, greed and hard work. I would recommend Camelot find its own way to peel back the layers and find similar emotions.