Review: Kingdom 1×1 (US: Audience Network)


Mixed martial arts aka MMA is one of the fastest growing sports in America, and despite having come about thanks to the Ultimate Fighting Championship back in the 90s, it’s had relatively little fictional attention, bar Never Back Down, which is notable only for featuring both Amber Heard and the entire script for the Karate Kid but with karate crossed out and MMA written in instead.

Now we have Kingdom from the DirecTV-exclusive but generally unknown Audience Network, which despite only being two episodes in has already been renewed for two seasons, so clearly is doing something right. I’m not sure what though.

It stars Frank Grillo (best known now for Captain America 2, but previously the only normal person in monsterville in The Gates) as the owner of a Venice beach gym and a pro MMA fighter. He’s moderately pleased when former partner Matt Lauria gets out of jail and comes to train again and tries to help Grillo’s son and heroin addict Jonathan Tucker (The Black Donnellys) – only moderately, because Grillo’s now going out with Lauria’s ex-girlfriend Kiele Sanchez (The Glades). Cue much manly tension and bro-talks.

The best that can be said about Kingdom is that it’s competently made and not as meat-headed as you might think. Most of the show is about MMA training, with the now-compulsory monster truck tyres and sweat suit scenes, but the few proper MMA fights are pretty well handled. Being a jiu jitsu person at heart, they all seem a bit limited and silly to me but YMMV. The dialogue is bland and I doubt a single line registered as being interesting or insightful the entire time, with most being nondescript or occasionally offensive. Appropriate for the kinds of guy involved? Possibly. But this isn’t a realistic show so that’s not really an argument that passes muster. Either way, it’s certainly no Rocky, but it’s nowhere near as toxic as Never Back Down’s dialogue.

But against even those minor positives, I have to say it has a lot of flaws, including a whole set of characters whose appeal for most people is going to be extremely limited, as well as a massive woman-problem, with women only there as girlfriends, sex objects and plot motivators/characterisation tools for the men, rather than because the producers seem to think they have any intrinsic worth. I think I did manage to spot a couple of women in the gym who weren’t there serving a purely decorative function, but they didn’t get any lines, so I’m not sure they count – and they were largely offset by the naked, equally dialogue-less women elsewhere.

The ending (no spoilers) showed the programme’s other big problem: how it deals with the few blacks and Latinos it has. Despite the Los Angeles setting, there are no black characters in the cast and the only Latinos I spotted were women-abusing, murderous criminals. Lovely.

Oh well. Maybe someone else can come up with a decent MMA series instead. Because this isn’t it.

  • GYAD

    Frank Grillo previously starred in a pretty good little MMA movie called WARRIOR. This looks fairly decent — any word on a UK release?

  • I'm aware of Warrior but never watched it – never found the time somehow. Tom Hardy so I figured it might be good, though.

    As for UK release, nothing yet. As far as I can see, only Bravo Canada have bought it. But it does air on quite a niche channel in the US with no real pedigree in scripted so I'm not surprised that no one's really looking at it.

    It is made by Endemol, though, who obviously have quite a big European (especially UK) presence, and given it's been given an extra two seasons (so 30 episodes in all), I imagine that that will give other networks cause to consider it. I imagine it might play well on Channel 5.

  • GYAD

    WARRIOR is quite emotionally manipulative but good fun. Tom Hardy does his best Brando impression, Nick Nolte gets drunk looking for an Oscar and Joel Edgerton is the sympathetic one. The women are superfluous.

    Re: KINGDOM. Well, hopefully someone like C5 will pick it up. It'd fit their audience.

  • I'll keep my eyes open re:Kingdom

  • GYAD


  • Don't know how I missed the announcement last week, but it turns out that Virgin Media has acquired Kingdom:

  • GYAD

    Good memory! Thanks!

  • You're welcome. My brain remembers things like this. Useless things like, you know, people's names tend to go by the wayside…

  • Pingback: The Medium is Not Enough TV blog()

  • Pingback: The Medium is Not Enough TV blog()

  • Pingback: The Medium is Not Enough TV blog()