As one perhaps genetically indisposed to enjoy sports in which people whomp the stuffing out of one another, I wouldn't expect to care much for a drama built around mixed martial arts, in which the whomping comes in more ways than usual. And yet here I am, about to write a good review of just such a show.
A new drama premiering Wednesday on DirecTV, "Kingdom" bumbles a bit at first; the first episode, especially, seems dangled as bait to the hormonal young men who not only make up much of the audience for MMA but whose attention networks compulsively seek.
There is the usual modicum of undressed female window-dressing. Each of the first three lines in the series contains a variation on the f-word, and before 90 seconds are up, there has been a violent, one-sided punch-out that only momentarily interferes with the morning run of Alvy Kulina (
As is often the case, the thing being criticized is also the thing being marketed. The structure of the show allows flawed good guys to beat the tar out of unmitigated bad ones, satisfying that urge, should you happen to have it. Some do.
It's almost as if, like its testosterone-fueled fighters, the show loses its mind every once in a while and just has to punch something, and punch it and punch it and punch it. Between these attacks, however, it relaxes into well-written scenes in which the wounded characters express ideas and feelings other than rage. The violence becomes less gratuitous and, therefore, more distressing — indeed, you may root for them not to fight, even professionally, even as the show pushes you toward the moment when they will.
"Maybe you've just got used to a certain level of pain," Nate's physical therapist will tell him, saying more than she knows.
Creator Byron Balasco (
Filling out the main cast are Alvy's younger son Nate (Nick Jonas, of the famous Brothers, and very good), serious and sober; older son Jay (
Eventually she will be joined by Joanna Going as Jay and Nate's mother, Christina (not strong but fully conceived). Some of the arrangements seem too mathematical at first, but all gain nuance with time.
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When: 6 p.m. Wednesday