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Starz's 'Camelot' is missing its magic

Joseph Fiennes as Merlin, Claire Forlani as Igraine,

Joseph Fiennes as Merlin, Claire Forlani as Igraine, & Jamie Campbell Bower as Arthur in "Camelot" Episode 101. (Starz Entertainment/ Jonathan Hession) Photo Credit: Starz Original Photo/

REASON TO WATCH

King Arthur, and all that.

WHEN/WHERE

Friday night at 10 on Starz

Morgan (Eva Green, "Casino Royale") has been banished from the kingdom by her father, the king, for reasons unknown, but a master shape-shifter, she returns to knock the old boy off and assume her place as queen.

However, Morgan didn't know about a boy, Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower), who is her half-brother. Merlin (Joseph Fiennes, "Flash Forward") had taken the boy as a baby, given him to a family to raise while awaiting the day when Arthur would assume his place as rightful king of Camelot. Morgan has other ideas before she lets this happen.

MY SAY Starz has still missed a major opportunity here -- a chance to build "Camelot" into a channel-defining franchise for all those young male viewers it so clearly covets, without turning this into an Arthurian version of "Spartacus." Most of the basic genre elements are present and accounted for -- a naked body (female, of course) here and there, flowery language, battles of good versus evil, that sword in the stone, and so on.

What's missing? A sense that something truly grand and mythic is under way. Merlin is plodding, earthbound and grumpy; Fiennes plays him like he's Arthur's cranky uncle. The kingdom's a lovely place, but not a dragon, incubus, or monster in sight. Magic seems to have been exiled from the land (Morgan does have some magical powers but nothing to write home about), and in its place, dullness reigns.

BOTTOM LINE Nice looking, but not nearly enough action.

GRADE C+

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