On TV: Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire
Comedy Central is a strange channel. For one, it insists on broadcasting stand-up comedy in spite of the fact that only opera translates worse to the small screen. Secondly, one-third of its programming seems to come from Blue Collar Comedy Tour alums (Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy, et al.) while the other two-thirds makes fun of those lovable Southerners whenever possible. Stranger still are the two new shows that debuted this spring, including Important Things with Demetri Martin, which premiered in February to high ratings and critical accolades for its low-budget showcase of subtle, esoteric humor.
The other new series, a fantasy-comedy-adventure dubbed Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire, premiered last Thursday. While many outlets avoided reviewing it, it's difficult to see critics embracing its high-budget parade of blunt, low-brow humor. But last I checked, teenage boys don't read Tom Shales.
Krod's first joke offers an excellent litmus test. After a few bars of ominous narration, Krod is introduced as the "son of a blacksmith and a stay-at-home mom." If that combination of old and new world didn't elicit at least a nod of recognition that a joke was present, it's probably going to be a long hour for you.
However, if you sort of smirked or even lightly chortled at that non sequitur, then the digressions that follow won't disappoint you. Krod (Sean Maguire) and his band use modern business vernacular like "PR nightmare" and "micromanaging" while conversing about a recent skirmish. Evil Chancellor Dongalor (Matt Lucas, the shorter guy from Little Britain) speaks of "sex tourism" and "action items." As the heavy, Lucas molds the character to be a fancier Darth Vader, complaining about rebels and putting a Death Star into development but forcing the elder council to critique his loincloth choice.
A handful of historical connections between Krod and Dongalor come up now and then, but their interactions are brief and resolve themselves through various well-done physical gags. Most of the time, though, Krod talks shop with his rebel crew: Loquasto (Steve Speirs) the pig man, Zezelryck (stand-up comic Kevin Hart) the fake sorcerer whose main power is conjuring excuses why his spells don't work, and Krod's hot pagan girlfriend Aneka (India de Beaufort), who doesn't subscribe to his ideas of monogamy. Not to mention the obvious, but de Beaufort is slamming hot. Her beauty is more Maxim than Marie Claire, but if her leather-and-chain-mail ensemble didn't make the boys in the audience feel slightly strange, then the three-minute pole dancing sequence had to do the trick. Krod may subvert some fantasy-action genre conventions, but the producers know that Xena didn't wear a burka.
But this is comedy, and if the jokes don't work then bare or barely-covered chests (Maguire definitely works out) won't make the content any stronger. Not to spoil a significant chunk of the humor in the pilot, but there are probably 10 jokes or callbacks that relate to a throwaway character named Horst Draper (say it outloud -- probably not at work, though) who rapes horses. Meta-moments abound in the episode, and despite the high volume of jokes from writer-creator Peter Knight, it's hard to spot his priorities. The action sequences are beautifully shot -- the show is filmed in Medieval-looking Hungary -- and the score is heavy and emphatic, but there a disconnect remains between the quality of the image and the quality of the words.
In the end, Krod Mandoon feels like a really expensive student film: Someone paid a lot of money to make it look great, lock down the locations and ensure adequate male and female cleavage. The script so far, however, requires a more professional shine. What does the future hold for Krod and the resistance? Considering that in the premiere he added a new member to his band -- a flamboyantly gay rebel with no discernible non-sexual talents named Bruce -- count on double entendres. RATING (out of 10): 5.5