Death of Kingdom

KingdomSupposedly, ITV canceled Kingdom because it was too expensive to produce, not because it was unpopular. The show, which stars Stephen Fry, is beautiful to look at. It has too many helicopter shots for my taste, but I can’t say they don’t work. Nonetheless, the show would have been as successful on a smaller budget. It is, after all, a little show about human foibles.

Fry plays Peter Kingdom, the one reasonably together sibling of a family that seems too dysfunctional to have gotten as far as they have. And they are surrounded by a group of idiosyncratic locals like Sidney Snell, the brilliant but socially awkward eccentric who almost single handedly manages to stop the encroachment of modernity on Market Shipborough. The series has long story arcs that are probably the weakest part of it. Peter Kingdom has a very unlikable brother Simon who takes up much of the air in these stories. This is sad because other potential story arcs are destroyed by the shrapnel of Simon’s past.

There are generally two stories during each 45 minute episode. One is usually light and the other designed to provoke convulsions of tears. For example, in the first episode of the second season, the whole town is trying to save the local lighthouse. Two older sisters are secretly trying to get it demolished because (unbeknownst by anyone) it was run by their uncle who sexually abused them as children. Sounds horrible, right? It is actually handled reasonably well. But it brought me to gasping sobs. As do most episodes. Usually, however, it isn’t something terrible. Instead it is something wonderfully sweet.

Thus far, you probably think that I don’t much care for Kingdom. That’s not true at all. It has exactly the combination of wit and sentimentalism that I desire. I am sad that it was canceled, because it certainly had another couple of good seasons in it. So if you get a chance to see it, I recommend it.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Death of Kingdom

  1. Just put that on my library list — I’d never heard of it. I have an incredibly warm affection for Fry, as do most people I see things with (even when they don’t know his name, we’ll watch something he’s in and they’ll say, "ohh, that guy, I really like him.")

    Maybe it’s the intelligence mixed with self-deprecation. I read one of his memoirs, not long ago, and he chastised himself for not being equally brilliant as contemporary/colleague Emma Thompson. Well, God wants to be equally brilliant as Emma Thompson. That’s like a celestial architect getting bummed out for only making Niagara Falls when someone else made the Grand Canyon. Really, it’s far higher a standard than one should judge oneself by.

  2. @JMF – I’m a huge fan of Fry & Laurie. They both say they want to get back together, so I keep waiting. I remember a clever line from Thompson. She said that Fry was "95% gay and 5% other."

    Fry also seems to be an alright guy. He was defending the Hobbit pub when the movie company was trying to shut it down.

    http://franklycurious.com/index.php?itemid=1381

    I really like Thompson, but I still don’t understand some of her choices in the screenplay for [i]Sense and Sensibility[/i].

    http://franklycurious.com/index.php?itemid=2944

    If you haven’t seen it, [i]Peter’s Friends[/i] has the whole gang in it and is a nice little film.

  3. I think I saw Fry for the first time in "Peter’s Friends." It might be his best dramatic role.

    The "S&S" thing, I imagine, was just to simplify the characters. Austen had layers upon layers of complex human behavior in her books, and that’s hard to make clear in a movie. Ang Lee is a gifted guy, he might have pulled it off, but at the time I don’t think he’d made an English-language film before and so everyone involved probably decided to keep the script in its no-brainer, un-screw-up-able format. Which turned out pretty good.

  4. @JMF – Based upon the change, I feel certain it was her choice. It required three scene changes. I suspect it was changed to avoid what is a very long "talky" scene in the book. But I can think of a couple of better solutions. Still, I quite like the movie. She does a great job of translating what is a nasty portrait of Marianne in the book. Its portrayal of Romantic era sensibility tickles me, since I tend not to like the art of that period.

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