ABC’s sweeping Biblical drama Of Kings and Prophets premiered tonight and, well, let’s just say this ain’t the story of David and Goliath you learned in Sunday School. Granted, it got some things right. But the sexed-up sensationalism-on-steroids network treatment this classic tale received will undoubtedly make it polarizing — perhaps the the very demographic the show was trying to draw in.
So what does the good book look like through ABC’s eyes? In the beginning (no, this will not be followed with “God created”), we see King Saul (Ray Winstone) leading his army in bloody battle.
And when I say bloody, I mean bloody. To be honest, it was far more gory than I expected from an ABC show. Or, you know, a retelling of the Bible.
Alas, such is the service of the Lord, or at least the service of the Lord as interpreted by Saul’s prophet Samuel (Mohammad Bakri). Saul’s endeavors at this stage in his battle-weary life seem largely aimed at uniting the tribes of Israel against the Philistines and living out a sort of quiet retirement in the newly peaceful kingdom with his family.
To this end, he plans to marry off his eldest daughter to a son of the house of Judah. Little does he know, his daughter already knows this son in, ahem, the Biblical sense. Accordingly, now we do, too.
Before he can give her hand in marriage and bring apparent peace and prosperity to his people, though, Saul gets one final order from the prophet. He must seek out and kill the Amalekite people: every man, woman and child.
He essentially then proceeds to do so, and it’s brutal. I can’t imagine that sequence will get much traction with the Christian crowd.
As for David, played by Olly Rix, he’s likable enough. He’s kind of charming and goofy and a bit of a flirt, which is all good and well, save for the fact this is David. From the Bible. Here, he reads more like a long-haired Hugh Dancy than either of the versions of David traditionally embraced — that of the young man slinging rocks and taking down giants, or that of the confident leader and king.
To the show’s credit, it isn’t particularly inaccurate in its telling of David. His ascension to the throne did reportedly start with him playing the lute in King Saul’s court. He wasn’t without fault and was actually responsible for some pretty serious Old Testament sins.
Still, some of the liberties taken with the narrative will rub Bible purists the wrong way. Conservative Christians and conservatives in general will likely write off Of Kings and Prophets immediately due to the graphic nature of the series alone.
In fact, the Parents Television Council is already speaking out against the fledgling show.
“Despite the fact that the miniseries is based on a book that most families in America have at home — that book being the Bible — parents should be forewarned that Of Kings and Prophets will not be appropriate for family viewing. While we are grateful that the showrunner, Chris Brancato, personally invited us to preview the first episode, it remains difficult for us to recommend this show to families given the graphic content. And given Mr. Brancato said that he’ll be ‘fighting with broadcast standards and practices’ and that ‘we’re going to go as far as we can’ throughout the series, there’s likely to be even more explicit content in upcoming episodes,” said PTC president Tim Winter in a statement.
The “fighting” and pushing of boundaries Winter refers to comes from an earlier conversation Brancato had with reporters at the Television Critics Association.
In relation to the Biblical content, he added, “This story is an Old Testament [one that’s] violent [and] sex-drenched. It’s one of the world’s first soap operas.” That notion won’t sit well with some Christians.
So while ABC succeeded in creating a visually stunning production, it may not have any legs, so to speak. Viewers are already weighing in via Twitter with their ambivalence and doubts.
The pilot for Of Kings and Prophets is really well produced, but you know there's a problem when Saul mentions God more than David does.
— Kelvin Cedeño (@itsamadkiwi) March 9, 2016
Hard to take Of Kings And Prophets seriously. So. Many. Errors.
— Lance Lawson (@lancelawson25) March 9, 2016
All of that hype for nothing, of kings and prophets. Not entirely accurate.
— Richard Whitehead (@Blessedking89) March 9, 2016
I can't believe I there isn't one Jewish actor in of kings and prophets….
— jamie (@nearlywitchez_) March 9, 2016
There are already comparisons floating around to a certain super-popular HBO series, a show which is by no stretch of the imagination typical Christian fare. Laboring under that assumption, however, it’s possible that viewers will tune in just for the period intrigue and impressive visual component.