“I no longer have a daughter,” growls an irked King Uther Pendragon, in spite of the fact that Morgan, his unpleasant, peeved heir is standing right in front of him. And what’s more, she’s about to slip some poison in his soup and claim the throne. Soon, the dastardly minx will get together with Uther’s archenemy King Lot (James Purefoy) for plotting and sex. And so begins the medieval EastEnders that is Camelot--a resplendently rompy take on the sixth century legend. To hook you in, this first instalment--a two-hour double-bill on Saturday (9pm, Channel 4)--is given over to fighting and fornication.
Like The Tudors, Camelot was made with mainstream America in mind. So everything is spoken rather than implied: nasty characters tend to let you know in advance when and how they intend to exhibit their nastiness, whereas really they should just get on with it. And the cast includes some reassuringly famous names, like Joseph Fiennes who plays brooding sorcerer Merlin. They’ve shaved his head and tried to make him look ill, but it’s impossible to block out Fiennes’ good looks. And it’s just as impossible to take a pretty Merlin seriously. Presumably, though, Camelot’s creators are quite proud of themselves for not casting an old man with a long white beard and a pointy hat. Emmys all round, I say.
Jamie Campbell Bower (Twilight) is a young, green and blonde Arthur, who’d rather bed beauties and stay living with his kindly, adopted parents than lead a nation and battle his evil half-sister. But to those around him, like his brother Kay, it’s as if Arthur’s won the ultimate lottery: Camelot and country. Alas, Arthur’s no more sold on the prize when he arrives at his new castle. It’s a fixer-upper. But Merlin insists that the CGI Roman ruin on the edge of cliff will once again be the envy of all other kings, or something similarly persuasive. But even Sarah Beeny would baulk at this job. There are trees – TREES! – in the lounge. And the roof is best described as… invisible.
Camelot may be stupid and slick but it’s also shamefully enjoyable. It’s like Game of Thrones without the finessed plotting, Excalibur-sharp script and Sean Bean. So actually, it's not a lot like Game of Thrones. But you’ll switch off wanting more.