Sunday, 27 September 2009

The BBC series 'Merlin'

I watched this last night and it was even worse than I remember the last series being. What on earth are the BBC thinking? The castles and costumes are decidedly late medieval despite King Arthur supposedly being around in the early saxon era. The 'blind casting' I can understand however the general standard of the acting in it is terrible, although I suspect the Royal Shakespeare Company would struggle to impress given the banality of the scripts. The story arc doesn't seem to be going anywhere; there is no sign yet of Uther dying so that Arthur can pull the sword from the stone, no knights of the round table on the horizon; nothing. Rather than the Arthurian legends we just get huge dollops of Lord of the Rings style dragons & the like.
Only worth watching for the eye candy Arthur & Merlin and the amusement value of a Victor Meldrew wizard.

20 comments:

Youth of Australia said...

What on earth are the BBC thinking?
They thought "it worked last year, let's do it again". What ELSE would they have been thinking?

The castles and costumes are decidedly late medieval despite King Arthur supposedly being around in the early saxon era.
Sparacus. There are dragons, witches, wizards and magic.

It's not SUPPOSED to be historically accurate.

The 'blind casting' I can understand however the general standard of the acting in it is terrible,
I've not seen anyone worse that those hammy tools in The Keys of Marinus. You just hate them cause they're younger than you.

although I suspect the Royal Shakespeare Company would struggle to impress given the banality of the scripts.
Again, better than your play in dialogue, pacing, consistency, humor, plotting, drama and compassion.

The story arc doesn't seem to be going anywhere;
You've only watched one episode of the series - how can you judge?

there is no sign yet of Uther dying so that Arthur can pull the sword from the stone, no knights of the round table on the horizon; nothing.
You know, you might enjoy it more if you paid attention to what WAS there, not what WASN'T.

Rather than the Arthurian legends we just get huge dollops of Lord of the Rings style dragons & the like.
So what? It's not MEANT to be a straightforward reproduction. Go and watch something else. You don't tune into the Teletubbies and then complain at the lack of socio-economic analysis for the over-50s, do you? So why go into a yoof magical soap opera expecting a Simon Schama documentary?

Only worth watching for the eye candy Arthur & Merlin and the amusement value of a Victor Meldrew wizard.
So you enjoy the lowest-common-denominator elements.

Goes to show the ones that complain the most are really the cause of the problem in the first place...

Miles Reid said...

And what is wrong with 'Lord of the Rings-style dragons and the like'? When you've got a series where you're dealing with mystical elements, it's hardly going to be sterling, period drama. Okay, it doesn't go along the 'magical realism' route that 'Robin of Sherwood' took (well, apart from that one episode Cromm Crauac where Robin fought a dodgy rubber monster and Richard O'Brian, but on the whole, it's fun, that's what's important.

Sure, Merlin isn't a perfect show and to me, that really boiled down to the show not really knowing where it was really going in the first season, a common problem in a lot of TV shows in these days when we're used to serialised storytelling ala LOST, Heroes and every decent and half-bloody decent genre show since Babylon 5 and the X-Files. It's very nice to have a show where 'two characters sharing a look three series previously dictates the entire motive of one seemingly out of character moment' does not apply.

Besides, the best 'bizarre adaptation' of Arthurian legend is the comic book Camelot 3000 where Arthur is restored to life to save the Earth from evil, invading space aliens with the help of his reincarnated Knights of the Round (included a controversially groundbreaking at the time subplot where Sir Tristan, the great lover of women is reincarnated in a woman's body and finds himself a- tempted to betray the Table Round to be restored to his proper manhood (ooh err) and B- Disgusted by his own apparant lesbianism when s/he meets the reincarnation of Isolde)

Colin said...

I might also point out that Lord of the Rings doesn't have any dragons in it. Unless you count the fell beasts, and I think that was only established by sources of dubious canonicity, i.e. the ICE roleplaying system.

Anyway, I think it's a safe guess that Spara doesn't have that level of knowledge of, nor interest in LotR, and is simply shooting his mouth off because Merlin uses vaguely similar CGI to that used by Weta Digital.

Miles Reid said...

You're right there, Colin. But while 'Lord of the Rings' doesn't have a dragon, 'The Hobbit' does.

Hell, I only wish he'd mentioned the 'Dungeons and Dragons' movie, if only for my secret desire to see Jeremy Irons and Anthony Stewert Head indulge in mortal kombat!!!

sparacus said...

"Sparacus. There are dragons, witches, wizards and magic.

It's not SUPPOSED to be historically accurate."

This renders the programme ridiculous. It is not a serious treatment of the Arthurian legends.

sparacus said...

"And what is wrong with 'Lord of the Rings-style dragons and the like'? When you've got a series where you're dealing with mystical elements, it's hardly going to be sterling, period drama. Okay, it doesn't go along the 'magical realism' route that 'Robin of Sherwood' took (well, apart from that one episode Cromm Crauac where Robin fought a dodgy rubber monster and Richard O'Brian, but on the whole, it's fun, that's what's important"


It is a gigantic missed opportunity. 'Robin of Sherwood' is essentially how such programmes should be done. There is nothing wrong with serious supernatural elements but who wants silly dragons?

Miles Reid said...

"This renders the programme ridiculous. It is not a serious treatment of the Arthurian legends."

No more so than 'The Sword in the Stone', 'Battlefield', that one episode of Babylon 5 where Michael York thinks he's Arthur and they imply that the entire cast of Babylon 5 are actually the Arhturian characters and a good deal of any Arhturian based fiction where the celtic myths are played up over any realism.

"There is nothing wrong with serious supernatural elements but who wants silly dragons?"

I want silly dragons... especially in Merlin where that dragon is a machiavellian bastard!

I like dragons. I want them to sound like Sean Connery or John Hurt, I want to watch Godzilla fight King Ghidorah- the Three Headed Space Dragon. I want to watch Son Goku collect the magical Dragonballs to summon Sheng-long, the magical Dragon that can grant wishes.

Or... as my fiance just said when I showed her this blog entry- "Oh gods, the pretentiousness, We have so little proper sword-and-sorcery fantasy on TV as it is, to pick so mercilessly at what we do have expecting period-authentic settings and perfect reproductions of the work its deriving from is just stupid. Ugh."

Because she's a genius and I trust her judgement.

Curlyjimsam said...

It's a TV show about a king called Uther with a son called Arthur who is assisted by a wizard called Merlin, also featuring incidental characters called Guinevere and Morgana (the latter with some magical powers), set in a castle called Camelot - and there the similarities to traditional Arthurian legend pretty much stop. Change the names and chances are no one would even realise there was any particular connection.



And, it's clearly not supposed to be historically accurate either. It's just in a sort of generic fantasy setting. And every retelling of the Arthurian legends since about forever has tended to include anachronistic elements anyway - in "King Arthur's time" they wouldn't have had knights or castles in the sense we'd understand them at all, would they, and yet they're pretty central to a lot of the stories?

Reanna said...

"There is nothing wrong with serious supernatural elements but who wants silly dragons?"

I really hope that was sarcasm. It would make no sense otherwise.

It's not a subjective matter that proper medieval fantasy series are very few and far between now. Lording concepts like period accuracy and perfect adaptation of the original work over a series' creators and their audience is a great way to alienate an audience with a growing interest in what is otherwise a very niche genre.

The fantasy genre is just starting to gain some interest by the mainstream. Now isn't the time to restrict its potential.

Cameron Mason said...

It is not a serious treatment of the Arthurian legends.

It's a reimagining of the Arthurian legends - they've gone back to the beginning and started with the base elements of the various legends.

Cameron

Youth of Australia said...

This renders the programme ridiculous. It is not a serious treatment of the Arthurian legends.
Are you drunk, Spara? That's the WHOLE POINT! The program cannot be "rendered" ridiculous because it was specifically aiming for that format. The fact you have singularly FAILED to notice this, presumably because you're too busy knocking back hallucinagens and lusting after young male actors, shows you're losing IQ points too fast to comment.

It is a gigantic missed opportunity.
You can't miss an opportunity if you deliberately avoid it, you idiot. The BBC and the makers of Merlin did not WANT to follow a 20 year old show, they wanted to do something else.

Something NEW.

I understand that the idea of original thought terrifies you to the point of losing bowel control, but it's a fact of life. Get used to it or kill yourself, cause it's not going to change.

There is nothing wrong with serious supernatural elements but who wants silly dragons?
The viewing public. That's who. Now, your whining complaints are that of a vocal minority, intead one person out of the MILLIONS who watch and enjoy every week.

Drunken snobs with an unhealthy obsession with decade old TV shows and a refusal to embrace any kind of change are NOT the intended demographic.

If you don't like it, GOOD - you're not MEANT to.

sparacus said...

"It's a TV show about a king called Uther with a son called Arthur who is assisted by a wizard called Merlin, also featuring incidental characters called Guinevere and Morgana (the latter with some magical powers), set in a castle called Camelot - and there the similarities to traditional Arthurian legend pretty much stop. Change the names and chances are no one would even realise there was any particular connection."


Which is exactly why this series is so poor. It purports to be an Arthurian legend drama while showing no real understanding of the historical context of those legends. Late medieval castles did not exist in the early saxon period.
Also using dragons and the like demeans the original legends.

sparacus said...

"The viewing public. That's who. Now, your whining complaints are that of a vocal minority, intead one person out of the MILLIONS who watch and enjoy every week."

My point is that 'Merlin' is giving the viewing public a completely false idea about the contents of the Arthurian legends. Why not depict them properly with the knights of the round table etc

sparacus said...

"Or... as my fiance just said when I showed her this blog entry- "Oh gods, the pretentiousness, We have so little proper sword-and-sorcery fantasy on TV as it is, to pick so mercilessly at what we do have expecting period-authentic settings and perfect reproductions of the work its deriving from is just stupid. Ugh."

My point is that this is a missed opportunity to create a proper Arthurian drama which marries historical authenticity with swashbuckling entertainment.

Youth of Australia said...

My point is that 'Merlin' is giving the viewing public a completely false idea about the contents of the Arthurian legends.
Your point is that you think the viewing public are so stupid they can't work it out for themselves.

Why not depict them properly with the knights of the round table etc
Because it's been done countless times before etc, that's why! They're doing something new and different - an approach that is the antithesis is you, I concede.

My point is that this is a missed opportunity to create a proper Arthurian drama which marries historical authenticity with swashbuckling entertainment.
If you wanted historical authenticity there'd be no Merlin, we wouldn't be able to understand anyone (as they wouldn't be speaking English) and nothing interesting would happen for thirteen weeks.

The fact is, as far as the makers and viewers are concerned, they HAVE succeeded in reinterpreting the legend (which is, after all, what legends are for) and making it entertaining to a mass audience.

All you've got is a complaint that it's not what you want and that anyone who likes dragons is somehow immature.

You think "Merlin" doesn't do justice to Arthurian legends? You should see Battlefield, or that TV series with Sam Neill. Trust me, Jethro from Midnight treats the subject matter with more respect than many others would.

Next you'll be complaining there's not enough gay bondage in the last episode of Blake's 7.

Miles Reid said...

Why depict the legends properly? Myths, legends (the fictional characters of yesteryear) are always subject to reinterpretation, retranslation and evolve over the course of time, going from King Arthur and Robin Hood to Doctor Who and Spider-man.

Why are you holding this series is such contempt? The film 'Excalibur' features magic, dragons and the like and for hundreds of children, they'd have been raised on Disney's 'The Sword in the Stone' where Merlin is a dotty old man turning Arthur into a small bird to teach him about nature, adapted from T.H White's 'The Once and Future King', itself a series of books which reinterpretated the Arthurian Legend in context with the horrific actions of the 2nd World War. That's the thing about myths, legends and fiction, they're subject to new approaches, hence the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films where a disturbingly spry Holmes and Watson fight Nazi spies in World War 2.

Miles Reid said...

Plus, it's meant to be fun... Do you remember fun? Or is life just one long collage of grey, punctuated by visits to the toilet?

Youth of Australia said...

I suspect that, like Richie, Spara just wishes his life had been... COMPLETELY DIFFERENT! But remember, Spara's on record that fun is immature and he hasn't had fun since 1987. His own words...

sparacus said...

"If you wanted historical authenticity there'd be no Merlin, we wouldn't be able to understand anyone (as they wouldn't be speaking English) and nothing interesting would happen for thirteen weeks.

The fact is, as far as the makers and viewers are concerned, they HAVE succeeded in reinterpreting the legend (which is, after all, what legends are for) and making it entertaining to a mass audience."


Once again, the BBC are treating the 'mass audience' as unintelligent sponges.
This programme is not just historically wrongheaded it is also spoiled by samy plots and huge amounts of banal romance. What we could have had was a well researched retelling of the Arthurian legends based on some of the medieval sources. King Arthur is an extremely interesting subject for a drama and you don't need to 'retell' it by injecting dragons and wrong-era castles etc. This simply looks wrong and inculcates in to children innacurate historical assumptions.

Youth of Australia said...

Once again, the BBC are treating the 'mass audience' as unintelligent sponges.
The only person insulting the intelligence around here is YOU.

This programme is not just historically wrongheaded it is also spoiled by samy plots and huge amounts of banal romance.
So what? You keep selling the same Pertwee idea and the same Ben Chatham romance every single time. No consistent characterization, no historical accuracy, no effort. You don't even have dragons!

What we could have had was a well researched retelling of the Arthurian legends based on some of the medieval sources.
But no one wants that.

King Arthur is an extremely interesting subject for a drama and you don't need to 'retell' it by injecting dragons and wrong-era castles etc.
No one cares.

This simply looks wrong and inculcates in to children innacurate historical assumptions.
If children are stupid enough to think there are magicians and dragons in real life, they won't be any good at history anyway.

Again, you seem to think the entire audience are gullible morons unable to live their own lives while YOU, an alcoholic blogger with no social life, waffle on about how better you are to everyone else.

And no dragons at all.