ABC has decided to cancel its biblical drama Of Kings and Prophets after just two episodes. The move came after the show received low ratings and sponsors were pressured to pull their advertising.
The show attempted to tell the story of King David’s ascent to the throne and King Saul’s demise. While an exciting premise, ABC failed to deliver a product that resonated with most viewers. Of Kings and Prophets downplayed religious themes in favor of sex, violence, and intrigue for entertainment value.
ABC also took plenty of artistic licenses and made some odd character choices. For example, the prophet Samuel was portrayed as a jealous, bloodthirsty, and senile old man who misrepresented the will of Elohim. Samuel ordered Saul to annihilate the Amalekites seemingly out of spite, not because God wanted it.
Following the first episode, I wrote how Executive Producer Chris Brancato called Of Kings and Prophets the “non-dragon version of Game of Thrones.” He bragged that the show resembled a “soap opera” and would include plenty of gritty sex and gore in an attempt to make the Bible story “modern.”
If all this sounds like a turn-off, apparently so did most television viewers. Ratings for Of Kings and Prophets were abysmal.
“Talk about an epic failure,” TVLine’s Michael Ausiello retorted. He said that in its second week, “the Game of Thrones ripoff drew just 2.4 million total viewers and a 0.5 demo rating, which represented a decline of 27 and 37 percent from its frighteningly low debut.”
Another factor in the show’s cancellation may have been pressure on sponsors to withdraw their support. Kevin Porter, a reporter for The Christian Post, wrote on March 20 that the Parents Television Council (PTC) took partial credit for the show’s cancellation. PTC President Tim Winter told CP that the organization approached various sponsors about their concerns with the show’s content:
“Some of them (advertisers) had actually sponsored the first show, and we showed them the clips and they backed away from the second episode… So when those ad dollars leave, the TV network is faced with a very difficult choice. It was an embarrassing decision for them, I believe.”
Untimely, some combination low viewership, bad publicity, and loss of financial support led to the end Of Kings and Prophets.
Winter and others may have proclaimed “victory” following the move. My personal reaction is probably closer to general disappointment. Yes, Of Kings and Prophets had problems, likely fatal ones. Its cancellation may indeed have been for the best. But the concept had so much potential.
When ABC first announced they would bring 1 & 2 Samuel to the silver screen, it seemed like an exciting possibility. The network had the opportunity to produce a thoughtful and artistic product for a large, diverse audience. Of course, Of Kings and Prophets would reflect a degree of influence from Hollywood. It wouldn’t be a perfect biblical reenactment. But there was still so much potential.
Sadly, however, the meaningful themes from the biblical account of King David got lost in translation. The show got so bogged down in creating an “entertaining” story containing lots of sex, violence, and plot twists that the final product lacked resonance.
This defeated the purpose of basing a TV show on a Bible story in the first place. If ABC simply wanted to rip off Game of Thrones in a series short on historical or religious significance, why bother borrowing from Scripture at all?
Hopefully ABC and other networks don’t give up on the Bible. It would be great to see them use their resources to effectively tell the stories of King David and others. This will inevitably require adding to the source material and taking artistic license. But ideally the cast, crew, and producers of future shows will make creative choices that enhance the biblical narrative rather than detract from it in an attempt to boost ratings.