TV series review: Camelot, series 1 (2011)
Sometimes you look at a show and you think “well thank Gods for that” when you hear they’ve been cancelled after, or during, the first series. Others, you think “aww, they never even got a proper go at it”. Camelot … I’m undecided about.
We’re in ancient Britain, where there’s a sorcerer called Merlin (Joseph Fiennes, one of many familiar faces), a king called Uther (Sebastian Koch, which made me want to jump up and down like a monkey yelling “OOOH OOOH OOOH!!” but I settled for the more dignified, “Oh I wonder … *IMDb app* oh, so it is”) who has a beautiful wife called Igraine (Claire Forlani) … and a beautiful but evil sorceress daughter called Morgan (Eva Green). Morgan is not a fan of Uther, so sneaks poison into his food. Daddy dies, but Morgan doesn’t get the throne, because she also has a half-brother nicely tucked away at a farm. Arthur.
Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower) lives with his adoptive brother Kay (Peter Mooney) and adoptive father Ector (Sean Pertwee, and yes, more familiar faces still to come!), believing them to be his real family, until he’s whisked away by Merlin to go be King of the Britons. This was not on young Arthur’s agenda for the day, shall we say.
The boy king – okay, well, he looks barely out of his teens – comes to the ruins of a place called Camelot and has to try to build up his kingdom, and fulfil a few prophecies along the way, aided by the scheming Merlin. And, also has to deal with his half-sister wanting to be the One Queen to Rule Them All.
When more characters are added, Arthur’s life doesn’t get any easier. There’s the handsome, manly, chivalrous and all around dreamboat Leontes (Philip Winchester), who is betrothed to the beautiful Guinevere (Tamsin Egerton), and gosh darnit, doesn’t Arthur fancy the chemise off her? Good thing other handsome knights happen to come along, like the surly Gawain (Clive Standen – you might remember him as Archer Locksley/Gisborne in BBC’s Robin Hood).
Meanwhile, in Evil Corner, Morgan is joined by Sybil (Sinéad Cusack, and yes, I did pretty much squee at this point), a nun from the convent where Morgan spent her formative years. Yeah, Morgan learned her magix by nuns, yo, that’s pretty badass.
Sybil’s manipulative scheming makes Merlin’s look lame by comparison. And all the while, she looks like such a nice old lady in that habit. Little do people know!! (Who would harm an innocent nun? The nun herself, of course, paying someone to beat her up!) Probably my favourite character, all told.
Also: Daragh O’Malley as Leodegrance and James Purefoy as King Lot. I could probably go on. Camelot was delightfully chock-a-block with familiar faces, most of them very easy to rest your eyes on as well.
Sooooooooo … am I sounding pretty positive so far? Good. I actually liked this version of the Arthurian legends. Well, sort of. Unlike BBC’s Merlin, where I looked sceptical after five minutes, cried “WHAT?! NOOOO!” after about ten, and yet another five minutes later, I finally walked over to the DVD shelf, snatched down Merlin (1998, the one with Sam Neill), curled up in a corner of the sofa, clutching said DVD to my chest, wheezing “my preciousssss” at life in general. BBC’s Merlin I cannot abide. If they had done the decent thing, they would’ve renamed the characters to something less Arthurian and then it would just have been a shoddy fantasy bromance series, but no, they had to use Arthurian legend names and totally ignore the tradition. It’s even worse than Robin Hood! (Yeah, there, I said it. 😛 The only reason to watch that show was, and still is, Guy of Gisborne. Don’t get me started on Robin and Marian!)
I’m not even an Arthurian snob – I have seen and read way too little for that, but at least the stuff I’ve seen before (and after) have had some resemblance to a common purpose. Which is why I enjoyed Camelot. It still takes the legends and changes things around a whole lot, but in an interesting kind of way. Like how Merlin got the sword, and why it was named Excalibur … and drawing the sword from the stone. That wasn’t a “they did WHAT?!” but rather an “oh I see, that’s quite clever, actually”.
The biggest thing that confused me was Guinevere. According to tradition, she marries Arthur and has an affair with Lancelot. In this, she marries Leontes and has an affair with Arthur. “So they swapped the two and called Lancelot Leontes”, is what both Mr T and I thought, but as the series went along, we’re now thinking that’s not strictly the case. See, I reckon that if they’d been allowed to continue the show, she would’ve eventually had the opportunity to marry Arthur, and then who would turn up? Lancelot. Meaning Guinevere was a two-timing hussy all along. I could see that being a plot development further down the line, but alas, we shall never know now.
Not that I could quite understand what she saw in Arthur. If I was presented with a free choice of Arthur or Leontes as a hubby, I wouldn’t have picked the king, tell ya that much. I’d be too scared he’d break if I hugged him, whereas Leontes … 😍 No, I really don’t care for Arthur at all, he’s too weak a character (or too weak an actor?) to be the lead, even if he’s supposed to be like a fish out of water.
And then there’s Merlin. Brooding McBroodypants, whose brooding face has a tendency to become comical at inopportune times. “Lookit my ANGST!” “Hey, Merl, you’re pulling that face again, LOL!” Still, I like the character. I like several of the characters. I even have a bit of sympathy to spare for Morgan at times. Very little, admittedly, but still. You can’t doubt her being evil, because she keeps doing stuff that screams, “LOOKIT ME BEING EVIL! MWAHAHAHA!!” More like a caricature than anything else, realistically.
One of the funniest things about the show was that it was made for American cable TV, meaning every ten or so minutes, there had to be gratuitous nudity or shagging. One or the other. It became a bit of a sport for us to predict when people would get their kit off next, like “hmm, it’s been ten minutes fully clothed, someone will get their kit off right about … yeah, there we go.” It got very silly very quickly. Sex being shoehorned in for sex’s sake is not something I like, and in fact is one of the reasons I really dislike The Tudors and after Sam Neill left it, so did I. Gratuitous shagging, no thanks. If you can work it into the plot, that’s one thing, but you don’t have to be graphic about it. Except they do, lots. Ew. “Hi, I’m Guinevere. This is me in a wet chemise. No reason. My nipples just need to be showing at least once in every episode, it’s in the contract. I should’ve asked for TiVo.”
So yeah, it’s silly, it’s not exactly brilliant, it’s fairly predictable, and it’s certainly clumsy with storytelling at times, and often borders on the ridiculous, but I still enjoyed it. Loved the costumes, loved playing “spot the actor you’ve seen before” and loved the general idea of it.
And now, having written this, am I sad that it’s not renewed for a second series? Yes and no. I’m slightly disappointed about not getting any more episodes, but I’ll live, you know? Also, considering what happened to some characters, who shall remain nameless, I’m not sure I would like the next series without them. It’s a flawed show, but it was enjoyable, even if they did put too much emphasis on serving naked flesh at regular intervals.
3.4 out of 5 scrolls, just because I enjoyed it despite all the reasons why I shouldn’t. Like killing off Uther way too quickly.
Piccies from the Camelot Wiki on Wikia.