Thursday, July 31, 2008

Kings of NBC

The following article was just published on the website under the title Bible, Heroes Inspire Kings. It really drives the point through that strong narratives can have tremendous lifespans and the Bible is chock-full of phenomenal, character driven stories that are epic, personal, inspiring and meaningful. So, while a mainstream appropriation of biblical text is somewhat eyebrow-raising, it is not at all surprising given the great depth the source text. I am often thinking about ways to inflect relevancy into "classic" or "older" texts, regardless of the original medium-and it really becomes a matter of translating them and putting them through a series of tests and filters so that the concentrated truths therein can be found-much like the process of titration in high-school chemistry. Over time and through these various creative processes, the full composition of the subject, what makes the original text valid, can be discovered and then reintegrated into a new framework.

Michael Green, the executive producer of NBC's upcoming drama Kings, told SCI FI Wire that his previous position as a staff writer for Heroes was a big inspiration for the contemporary drama, which is loosely based on the biblical story of King David.

"I wrote this while working on Heroes and was absolutely inspired by the work we were doing there: the larger-than-life storytelling," Green said during an interview at Comic-Con International in San Diego over the weekend. "I absolutely bounced ideas off the writers there and asked for their help and advice at various points. I probably could not have written this without them being there encouraging me and giving me good ideas when I didn't have them."

Kings is a modern retelling of the David story, set in a nondescript modern metropolis reminiscent of New York. David Shepherd (Christopher Egan) is a soldier who rescues the king's son from enemy territory and causes the path to peace to finally become clear. He returns home a hero and must deal with his sudden celebrity and position of power.

"There are a lot of similarities to Heroes," Green said. "I look at Kings as a high-end family drama, where the family just happens to be a royal family. There are similarities in that there will be ongoing storylines, but Kings lends itself a bit more to stand-alone stories in the Battlestar Galactica model. There are no barriers for entry for audiences."

Green added that he enjoyed contemporizing the familiar story. "Taking these elements and thinking, 'What is Goliath in this world?'" he said. "And taking these touchstone elements that people do know from the story and bringing them to life in a new way. We are taking inspirations from the original Bible story, so it's very much a story of one king rising while another one falls. It's a way for me to tell Godfather-like stories or these operatic stories."

But Green said the series is not literal in that he plays with the iconic story and that it veers into what he calls "soft sci-fi." "I'm not afraid of sci-fi, and I love it," he said. "We didn't want to do this as a space opera. We wanted it to be a familiar world, but at the same time we are inventing a world. We had a lot of fun inventing what this world is going to look like. We are taking New York and impressing our own aesthetic and own iconography. We got to have a lot of fun with that. I remember talking to David Eick about this when he was doing Battlestar, and he said they were always asking themselves the question 'What do doorknobs looks like?' We decided that we wanted to have things look like they could fit in our worlds, but you're not sure what city it is."

Green said that part of the SF element has to do with the idea of "magic, faith, happenstance, luck, God." "I look at it as the hand of faith guiding the heroes," he said. "I'm curious to see how people perceive that. The ongoing discussions when people see it are 'Is that magic? Did something just happen beyond physics? Is it something special or luck?' I won't answer that and will let people interpret that." Kings is set for a midseason start in early 2009. -Tara Bennett

How true this adaptation remains to the biblical story of King David is yet to be seen, and I would hope that much of the theological subtext of King David's personal journeys stays intact as the scope of the project it seems would necessitate that discourse. Although, based on Mr. Green's equivocal comments in the last paragraph of Sci-Fi's report, I have my doubts about the ability of a show to remain strong in its narrative while overtly skirting conviction. The creator must have an answer himself and if that belief is clear in the creator's own mind it is bound to come out in the series. The "world-view" of the auteur, if I may use that term, is essential to creating a coherent world within the show. I suspect it is easier to say "I won't answer that and will let people interpret that" before the show premieres than after even a few episodes. As the show progresses, I imagine these kinds of broad statements regarding the show's theological-or not-intentions will be more difficult to maintain.

A few evenings ago, I was talking to my friend KJ-with whom I always have engaging conversations about theology and popular culture-about how excited I am for her to get to some of the later seasons of Angel where the whole fate, prophecy and destiny dilemma is more compounded and direct in nature than the ways in which it is touched on in the first two or three seasons a la "To Shanshu in L.A." at the end of Angel's first season.

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