There is little regard in society today for tradition or for the historic value of the legends of old. This problem is compounded by the epidemic lack of originality in the arts in which everything coming out for television, movies or music has been done before. The only nod given to originality might be that a writer/producer may—and I stress may—try to put a different spin on a retread. The problem with that is it can ruin the memory of the original in the minds of its audience. The latest insult to a long-time legend is the ruination that Starz calls Camelot.
There are many Hollywood retreads that fell flat at the box office because whatever changes the producers made ruined the experience for the fans. Lost In Space, Dukes Of Hazzard, Godzilla all tried to update what had been successful movies and TV shows decades ago but fell short in the hearts and minds of the public. Some updates have enjoyed some success such as Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek (Et Al) and others. Some new versions have even been huge hits such as The Lord Of The Rings and The Dark Knight. The difference between the successes and flops is the degree of variation between the remake and the original.
Perhaps in an effort to keep viewers, Starz has decided to create an original series and period piece to compete with HBO’S Game Of Thrones and Showtime’s The Borgias. The problem was the subject matter they undertook. The tale of King Arthur and his kingdom at Camelot is a legend that has been told for centuries. Many writers have put their stamp of it from Sir Thomas Mallory, to Alfred Lord Tennyson and John Steinbeck. My favorite literary rendition is Thomas Boorman’s Arthur Rex. The tale has been put to film almost as many times from the musical Camelot to Excalibur (my favorite) and now the Starz production of Camelot. This legend is the standard by which most stories are measured. It features plotting and character development with noble themes and heroic acts and a moral to the story.
Unfortunately, Starz has laundered all the redeeming characteristics out of the story to spice it up for its perceived modern audience. The producers opted to do this by interjecting as much nudity and sex as they could get away with as well as coming up with some implausible machinations to heighten the intrigue. Arthur is no longer a noble leader fighting to unify a chaotic land and establish an order of might for right. At the beginning of this tale, Arthur is romping naked by the lake with his brother’s girlfriend. The actor cast in the larger than life role is Jamie Bower, a little known British actor who at his best makes Arthur seem petulant, selfish and impulsive and at his worst makes him look like he just hit a joint.
The worst part of the production is that every element of the legend has been mangled. Arthur does not draw Excalibur from the stone to become king. He draws a different sword called the Sword Of Mars, which promptly gets broken in combat training. Merlin then commissions a new sword to be forged by the greatest blacksmith in the land. Merlin then kills the blacksmith and his daughter to get the sword for the king.
Another change is that when Arthur meets Guinevere, she is betrothed to Leontis (not a named night in the original tales—although Leondegrance is Guinevere’s father in the original version). Arthur and Guinevere fall in love and experience a tryst the morning of her wedding and then Arthur leads the wedding ceremony that evening. While this may seem titillating and give the cable channel yet another opportunity to show gratuitous nudity and sex, it is not in keeping with the virtue that is supposed to be the foundation of Camelot.
Is this show just another example of how we as a society have given up on what has long defined character in mankind in lieu of the sensational, or is it yet another indictment of Hollywood pandering to our baser instincts at the expense of true art? This question is not for one person to answer, but rather for each individual to ponder when making the choice for entertainment.
This show should be avoided at all costs and hope to be cancelled before too much damage can be done to the true legend of the once and future king.