Jun 21, 2009

5 Minute Review: Merlin

Earlier tonight, NBC debuted the first two episodes of the BBC produced Merlin. Merlin is a new twist on the Arthurian legend. Merlin features the typical heroes as teenagers with Arthur, Merlin, Morgana and Guinevere making appearances in the first two episodes. Lancelot is nowhere to be seen but I'm guessing he will be appearing sooner or later. I read somewhere that Merlin is best described as a Smallville meets Camelot and I really couldn't agree more. Sub-par acting, lazy plot devices, and teens. That's Smallville 101.

The first two episodes featured MotW (Monster of the Week) villains; a haggish witch out for revenge against the King and a duplicitous knight whose attempts at cheating would put Sammy Sosa to shame. They do little but establish the world of Uthar's Albion; magic is illegal, Merlin has an inate but untrained magical ability, Merlin gets a job as Arthur's manservant, etc. The plots themselves are fairly tame and predictable, relying on a few agonizing techniques to get the characters from point A to point B. For example, when the weapons dealer sells the crooked knight a magical (and illegal) shield and shows him how to use it, the crooked knight kills the weapons dealer in a fit of predictability that would be right at home on CSI: Denver.

The production values aren't anything to write home about. The special effects are fairly poorly done and it's pretty obvious most of the SE budget went into the dragon in the cave which manages to always give Merlin the right idea (He's 2 for 2!). None of the characters are especially attractive (my fiance provided the female perspective) so there is no eye candy there, either. The scenery and the props are decent but more often that not the poor special effects and/or awkward cinematography really drew attention to themselves.

Honestly, while I didn't particulary enjoy the show, I wouldn't go so far as to give up on Merlin. The first two/three episodes of any series are garbage. You have to go through the paces of establishing the rules of the world and the relationships between the characters before you can really let loose. Look at Fringe or Dollhouse, both of which started with subpar first and second episodes (Fringe was especially horrible) and both of which managed to hit a few homers by the end of their rookie seasons. I apologize for the excessive baseball references, I was at a thirteen inning Cubs game yesterday and I haven't got it out of the system just far. So while Merlin didn't wow me from the get go, I'm not going to cancel it off the DVR just yet. After all, there's nothing else on TV.

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