‘Merlin’ looks for new magic in the U.S.

Jan. 21, 2011 | 6:42 p.m.

arthur and merlin Merlin looks for new magic in the U.S.

I have two kids —  a 13-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son — and our beloved Friday night tradition of ordering pizza and watching a movie is becoming more and more of a challenge. It’s just not easy to find a film that pleases all four members of a living-room audience with increasingly disparate tastes. And, because we’re not to a point where Pixar releases a new film every weekend, we’ve been turning to TV shows on DVD/Blu-ray for suitable fare. That’s how we came across “Merlin.

If you don’t know about it already, “Merlin” airs on Friday nights at 10 p.m. on SyFy — there’s a new episode tonight, in fact, and you can watch a clip of it below — and it’s now in its third season here in the States. The show is a U.K. export (it’s in its fourth season on the other side of the pond) and it’s pretty clear it was inspired by the early seasons of “Smallville” as far as setup and tone. Like “Smallville’s” young-and-unproven version of  Superman, this show presents a somewhat gangly, sweet-faced and wide-eyed  Merlin and an imperious, intense and somewhat ill-tempered Prince Arthur who does not yet possess  the worldly wisdom that will make him the once and future king of Camelot.

Like our favorite British show, “Doctor Who,” this sword-and-sorcery series has a brand of family-grade peril and production-value polish that make it accessible to youngsters. At the same time, the writers have cleverly weaved familiar legend with their new young-adult melodrama, and the cast is especially charismatic throughout. One of those interesting actors is Colin Morgan, the Irish thespian who turned 25 on New Year’s Day and portrays the show’s title character, the young warlock who hides his special abilities  in a kingdom where magic has been outlawed.

I talked to Morgan recently by phone — he was on the set and feeling pretty relaxed after his holiday break — and he said he and the rest of the cast are enthused by signs of percolating interest in the show in the States.  “Little did we know that we’d be here, early in 2011, starting in on our fourth [season] in the U.K. and our third in the U.S. and finding an audience that really seems excited about the show. It’s a busy year ahead and I couldn’t be happier about that.” The Jan. 7 third-season premiere on SyFy pulled in 1.3 million viewers, which is above the show’s  2010 average but shows that the series, like its characters, has a lot of growing up to do before it reaches a truly magical status.

I told Morgan that he had a cross-generational appeal in my household, at least, and he chuckled. “I’m pleased to say we hear that quite a lot. The average fan of ‘Merlin’ is hard to describe because the people that come up to me and say they love the show are really quite varied and all ages. I do think it’s nice that the show is something families can watch together, that there’s a dramatic element to it and action but also humor and even some slapstick in some episodes. I’ve been quite pleased with the way my character has grown and I think it’s all getting more interesting as we go along. This isn’t the powerful and older Merlin, this is Merlin in his beginnings; it’s a growing-up story and you see glimpses of the man he will be — and you see glimpses of the man Arthur will be — but Merlin is seen as a servant by everybody and it’s satisfying, I think, for the viewer to know where this story and this life lead. That’s the fun part. That’s the adventure for us too.”

— Geoff Boucher


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28 Responses to ‘Merlin’ looks for new magic in the U.S.

  1. Lisa says:

    Thank you for this article! I’ve been a fan ever since the first season. It’s nice to see that it’s still on air here in the US. If you ever speak to Colin or Bradley again tell them they should do a press tour here in the states for the next season!

    • opio gregory says:

      Here in Uganda, its just about a month that we watched the last episode of season 5 of Merlin. Can any one do me a great favour by sending me contacts of Merlin and Gaius. Merlin was the greatest in the series. I am planning to name my child Merlin should I manage to convince my girl friend to bear me a child.

  2. sakara says:

    the united states is becoming more and more spanish—-but the united states media is still obsessed with great britain!

  3. Charlie says:

    Thank you – I agree – I love this show! I guess when it aired on NBC during prime time it did not bring in a sufficient number of viewers, but I was glad when it was picked up by SyFy. Unfortunately the 10 p.m. air time is not very family friendly. My husband isn't that fond of the show because the story line is so very different from the legend. But I not only enjoy this new interpretation I really appreciate how the show uses the coming of age theme to present valuable life lessons. The show has done a great job of addressing subjects such as loyalty, friendship, honor, duty, extended and non-traditional families, and most importantly being different and having to keep that difference secret because of what society would do to you and those around you. Here's hoping the adventures continue with many many more folks realizing what a true gem this is!

  4. Ed says:

    I wish syfy would move this to 8 pm. It is a great show and we would love to watch it together but now I need to record it and we all watch it separately when we can since the weekends are so busy. But it is a terrific series, worthy of this attention!

  5. Guest says:

    We had Merlin programmed to record on TiVo in Season 1 but never saw Season 2 – what happened?

    • Guest says:

      Season 1 was originally aired on NBC in the states. NBC made the typical short-sighted network decision and dropped it. Fortunately, SyFy was wiser to the appeal of this series and picked it up for season 2 and now 3. Maybe your Tivo tracked season 1 on NBC, but lost it when it moved to the cable network? I missed the switch at first and had to catch up on re-runs. My Tivo knows where to look now.

  6. Ron Stone says:

    This "show" is an incompetent mishmash of absurd premises and juvenile plotting that reduces "The Matter of Britain" to Saturday morning cartoon levels. The only thing the cliche'd characters have in common with the classic legends is the names this travesty of entertainment pastes on cardboard cutouts. It's not that I simply dislike it, but this is a prime example of reducing rich, multi-layered human drama to the standard formulas, and as such thoroughly offends me.

    • Observer says:

      What part of fantasy, adventure entertainment don't you understand?, Ron. Maybe you should stick to reality shows.

      • Ron Stone says:

        That is the point: The series ignores the rich fantasy and adventure of the genuine Arthurian legends and replaces them with the same old formula plot lines and cliche characters of any other made-for-TV garbage.

      • Elian Gonzalez says:

        Okay, we we get it, the producers didn't hire you as a writer. Sheesh.

      • Ron Stone says:

        Pardon the freak out of me, but I not only don't like the show, I can articulate the reasons for feeling that way. Sheesh.

  7. mark in ky says:

    Ron go back to watching "Americanized " dramas that are so boring we all want to hang ourselves with show laces

  8. Ron Stone says:

    Again, that's the point: This series is so Americanized it bears no resemblance to the characters and stories of the real legends. It's standard-issue B-movie television – the same formula we've all seen over and over; all that changes are the names and costumes.

  9. GaryK says:

    I can see you either love the show or hate it. I love it and will be buying the series when it comes to the full seasons. thank god for Syfy, a great network with some really good shows. just like the other british import, Law and Order-UK on BBC America.

  10. Faith Giles says:

    I've only seen a few episodes, and frankly only care about Anthony Stewart Head. The show itself I usually find comical, but would definitely be good fare for the author of this article and the family he's described. It is a fun show.
    But as I said. ASH. squee!

  11. shakamura says:

    really good show. great cast, a black guenivere, thats whats up!

  12. Kevin says:

    I watched the 1st 2 seasons. I think it's a fun show, just don't expect it to be strictly adherent to the legends of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The show's creators took many liberties with the stories and characters, and I think it works for a tv show. And it's kind of cool seeing Giles from Buffy back on tv.

    Ron, I can understand why you feel that way. To the people who were badgering Ron; get off his back, the show's not for everyone.

  13. Angel says:

    I just found the show on Netflix recently and have watched EVERY episode religiously I might add!!! I only hope that this show will be airing for at least 4 more seasons – at least!!! I LOVE that it is a family show and that it is also the most interesting show I've seen maybe ever. I am glad to escape to a the fantasy of Merlin. The characters are all very charismatic and really get you feeling personally involved and I don't want to miss a thing!!!! I am 29 years old w/ 2 children. If you can give Bradley or Colin a message please tell them THEY ARE ABSOLUTELY ENCHANTING!!!!!!! Keep making plenty more episodes of Merlin b/c I definitely NEED MORE MERLIN!!!!!!! :)

  14. Carolyn says:

    Just came looking online for more about "Merlin" after absolutely falling head over heels for it last Friday. The last time you wrote about it was a YEAR ago! More please, more!

  15. Gemma says:

    A die hard fan in my household we all watch this . I wish they can make a real movie of this. I love merlin.

  16. sadmerlinfan says:

    Season 1 to SEason 5 episode 13 part 1 – awesome! last 5 mins of the finale, terrible terrible terrible ending….lots of broken hearts…what a terrible way to end a show. seems like the producer and writers didn't consider the fans at all, or even their own stories that they are building since season 1!

  17. Francesca says:

    If you want more Merlin, please visit this blog.. there are several articles like this one and you can subscribe and help us bring Merlin back.. we are not giving up:


    Why do so many mourn the death of Arthur?

  18. Casandra Robert says:

    Will merlin return?

  19. Will merlin return?we miss it.

  20. SUNDIATA says:

    Great show but sincerely da five seasons i cant get enough of them…fantastic show indeed…

  21. William says:

    USA fan of Merlin since it started!
    Colin Morgan is a great young actor as is The actor who
    plays Arthur!
    The gal actresses are also excellent and have liked
    the gentleman who plays the court pharmacist !
    Very glad it has been renewed again on SC FI here
    in the states I live in LA California.
    Would like to see a movie with the cast
    and hope it continues, more success to All Involved!
    William in los angeles ca.

  22. jenny says:

    when will merlin come out another season. i will wait until watch the final seasons

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