Series 2 of BBC’s “Merlin” premiers in the U.S. tonight on SyFy at 10:00 PM EST. You probably didn’t see series 1 when it aired on NBC this past summer, since only about 5 of us actually tuned in. That shouldn’t stop you from jumping into this “Smallville” inspired version of Arthurian legend now though. (Series 2 is way better anyway.) I’ll help you out. I can recap pretty much every episode of the first series right now. Some evil wizard tries to kill Arthur and Merlin has to save him without letting anyone know that he can use magic, because it is forbidden in Camelot. Occasionally, Morgana (the story’s future bad guy) or Guinevere (the story’s future fickle queen) will do something relatively unimportant, and towards the end of the season the writers seemed to catch on that Arthur was their most
attractive interesting character and had more episodes focusing on him not playing the damsel in distress. Other stuff you might need to know: BBC totally chickened out on an Arthur and Morgana romance even though they’re not biologically related in this show; Merlin’s like twelve years old or thereabouts; Guinevere is a maid; Mordred is no longer the product of incest but some randomly evil Druid child; and Uther Pendragon is a huge douche, who will execute people with little provocation. (For those of you who never saw the John Boorman classic “Excalibur,” and shame on you if you haven’t, that last one’s a departure from the legend only in that in the legend, Uther was more of a huge douche who liked to rape women by impersonating their husbands.)
However, if you dig Arthurian legend, but formulaic plots, British hey-its-that-guys, and really cheesy special effects aren’t your thing, it looks like there’s plenty other Arthurian adaptations coming up.
First up, is "Camelot," a television series that promises to be a “contemporary retelling of the Arthurian legend” at Starz (via THR). I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that translates to “not having a big enough budget for period costumes and sets.” Given that it’s from the pay-cable channel that brought us “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” and the creators of “The Tudors,” I’m guessing there will be a lot of nudity and sex, so at least they’re making up for it with something.
If a TV series is too much of a commitment for you, there’s a film in the works too. Guy Ritchie (“Snatch,” “Sherlock Holmes”) is set to direct a King Arthur movie from a script by John Hodge (“Shallow Grave,” “Trainspotting”) (via /Film). In my imagination, this movie will reimagine the legend as a glorious, flashy, drug-fueled gangster movie starring Jason Statham and Ewan McGregor. I’m probably only right about 50% of that, which is a shame. (As an aside, when I told this to Brenda, it made her think of a King Arthur movie as written by John Hodgman, which would be fantastic.) Unfortunately, I think that Hodge’s script is a rewrite of the King Arthur script Warren Ellis announced he was writing back in July of 2009, which I was looking forward to seeing. There’s also an Arthurian script that Brian K. Vaughn sold to Dreamworks a while back, which I was also looking forward to seeing. I have no idea what it’s status is though.
At this rate, I’m expecting to see a Vampire King Arthur, Zombie Hunter movie, starring Gerard Butler as Arthur, Sam Worthington as Lancelot and Katherine Heigl as Guinevere, announced any moment now. Maybe, if I’m lucky, Hollywood will decide to remake this "Camelot."