Saturday, 20 September 2008

It's a kind of magic...

Oonagh Robinson on the Beeb's new adventure series Merlin:

The main protagonists in Monty Python and the Holy Grail dismissed Camelot as a "silly place."
But watching the BBC's new family adventure series Merlin, it all looked rather fabulous.
Lovely big (CGI) turrets, lots of secret staircases, a big underground (CGI) cave with a scary (CGI) dragon inside - and yards and yards of sumptuous fabrics everywhere. It was just a pity about the people who lived there really. They were indeed a bit silly.
All the familiar names from the classic legend of Arthur turned up, but they weren't quite how they should have been.
Guinevere was a lowly handmaiden who liked to call herself "Gwen."
Uther Pendragon wasn't so much ruthless and fearsome as rather grumpy and tired.
Arthur was a bit of a "prat" - as Merlin himself observed.
Ah, yes. Merlin.
In this version, the famous wizard walked around dressed like a youth on a gap year holiday - complete with casual top, trousers and backpack.
He even started his first encounter with Arthur with a very modern sounding "Hi."
And while lots of references were made to his immense potential as a sorcerer, the magical powers he exhibited in this opening episode seemed to be restricted largely to "moving things around a bit." The bed that Victor Meldrew fell from a great height onto; the stuff that Arthur tripped over while they were fighting; the great big chandelier that dropped on the evil old woman's head.
Maybe in future weeks we'll get to see other aspects to Merlin. At the moment... well, he's quite nice to look at. So we don't particularly mind.
And that's the point really.
The whole show was lovely to look at, with a suitably epic feel - mostly special effects, but hey they were pretty impressive.
With the dusk falling outside and Strictly Come Dancing just finished beforehand, Merlin was a proper old-fashioned TV treat.
A bit lacking in humour, maybe. But my 11-year-old was transfixed throughout.
And anything that can put a smile on her face these days has got to be doing something right.