Disclaimer: The following is in no way a review and should not be taken for a review. Reviews are written with gravity and intelligence; they employ language skills enjoyed by the educated litocracy, with objectivity and critical analysis. In contrast, the following is bloody-minded snark on the part of the writer, i.e. me, period. Also, it is 90+ degrees here, out on the streets tourists and others are howling like the brainless zombies they are. It's staying this way, They Say, here in NYC, for a long time.
Why is this series so bad, and boringly bad to boot?
It's got some talented actors, such as Sinéad Cusack, who plays Sybil, the most risible villanous nun ever, and Joseph Fiennes, an actor often playing roles from Shakespeare -- on the stage -- who, in this, plays Merlin with a perpetual crick in his neck as if, maybe, he thinks he's really in Richard the III.
However, the primary characters are acted by actors who haven't an ounce of talent at all, and look even sillier as characters in the era of Angles and Saxons -- the clothes are gorgeous, right out an illustrated Pyle Middle Ages, or maybe Ivanhoe. No wimples, but loads of flowing velvets and satins and gold embroidery. (Also mirrors, there are a lot of mirrors, which isn't very period-ful, is it? But then, neither is the music. But then, who cares?)
The scripts are dreadful, and not only is that the dialog. Presumably the writers and the director and cinematographer don't speak to each other, or read the script either. At one point the ladies of the weed overgrown shambles that is supposedly Camelot inform poor Guinevere* there are no servants to help put on her wedding to Leontes. Why yes, she's marrying Arthur's Champion -- aren't we in clever story reversal, making the betrayed spouse the Lancelot stand-in, instead of King Arthur? In the very next scene the overgrown, roofless hall is over-run with servants decorating the place for the wedding. And right -- you believe living in this place? -- they even decide to never put a roof back on the hall so they will "never forget the stars." Is that a clever compliment to Starz, streaming this muck on netflix, which explains how/why I have now and again dipped into this well of idocy.
Michael Hirst, who wrote entertaining scripts for the gorgeous to look at, The Tudors, and much else, maybe should give up being a producer, as he's co-producer here, as on The Young Merlin, which he also helps script? He's going from the acceptable -- The Borgias, to the bad -- Young Merlin, and now this -- more stupid than cluck. Argh. He's also supposedly adapting adapt the Bernard Cornwell's novel Azincourt, for the screen. More Argh.
Shots in pretend-historical period television nobody can stand to see without laughing or getting po-ed: close-ups of galloping horses hooves (you got the horses, put their entire gorgeous galloping bodies in the scenes for pete's sake, it won't cost any more, since you've already shown us them before cutting down to hooves beating up clods); meaningless criss-cross of scene of extras in period costume doing meaningless period things or carrying meaningless period items, or just standing about being meaninglessly period. Time for new period establishing shots, new blocking and choreography, don't you think?
The Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes episodes used all the above (well, not the galloping horses' hooves) supremely, brilliantly well, including the theme opening of each episode. It's been all downhill formula ever since.
* Why does every novel, television script and movie that has had a Guinevere in it since Mists of Avalon, hated her? She's now always stupid, cowardly, and incompetent -- or here, all the above -- even though she takes charge as though she is the Queen and Arthur's wife even though she's married to Leontes. On the other hand she doesn't have to be the worst Arthur's sister evah, Ms. Morgan, let-me-show-my-boobs-to-you-wolves again-for-reasons-none-of-us-particularly-the-writers-have-a-reason-for.