The producers of this show cite both Smallville and Dr Who as inspirations and you can definately tell.
Like Smallville it has the same carefree attitude towards traditionally important things like ‘the original story’ and ‘historical accuracy’, and like Dr Who it has the same slightly goofy effects and over acted supporting roles.
But it works, somehow. I mean we clearly like the goofy effects and over acting- we as a public go nuts for Dr Who, and here it is combined with an engaging character who we know and love but reinterpreted from a different angle.
Merlin is a young ‘un come to Camelot to find use for his special (magical) talents. The problem? Old King Uther is not such a fan of the magical arts and no sooner has Merlin entered the city than someone is executed for it.
Lucky for Merlin he has a family friend, physician Gaius to help him out.
In this version of the tale, Arthur is a bit of a prat, as Merlin says, kind of like the good looking popular kid at school. Condescending, bullying but not nessarily all bad. Merlin clashes with him immediately, being an all round good fella.
The reinvisioning is entertaining, if fast and loose with anachronisms (I swear that at one point in the last scene you see Arthur mouth ‘for f***s sake’ under his breath- seriously)and at times more than a little bit clunky. Still it more than fills that sunday TV gap and is sure to settle into a family institution.