Pillars of the Earth

The series Pillars of the Earth on Starz based on Ken Follet’s book starts tonight at 9pm CST.

Ian McShane…probably enough said. Rufus Sewell and Donald Sutherland as well.

DVR set and looking forward to it.

Didn’t see another thread, blah, blah, blah.

I think it was mentioned in the Game of Thrones. I haven’t read the book, but I too have it set to record.

I thought I saw it mentioned in some thread regarding the improvement of Starz originals. I would have forgotten and then been pissed if I had not been by the bookstore today and saw the book with its new cover with the cast.

I’ve watched episodes 1 and 2 now on DirecTV 101, since I really liked the book but don’t remember it well. I’d say it’s only fair, despite some of the people in the cast. I’m judging it on its own merits, rather than my fuzzy recollection of the book, and I feel that the pacing is off. It feels like one of those adaptations where they feel compelled to touch on every significant book plot point and it ends up feeling compressed and lacking in emotional impact as a result.

McShane is excellent as you might expect, and Matthew Macfadyen is convincing as Prior Philip as well. The problem is that they spend a great deal of time on plot lines not involving those two.

Jack actually comes across as creepy. I don’t remember if that is in line with the book or not.

  • Gus

I am about halfway through the premiere and it is barely holding my interest. It is feeling more like a B-grade, non-premium cable channel series. The exposition using the chess board seemed particularly out of place.

I do like Macfayden very much so far.

It was amusing to see Vincent Van Gough (from Doctor Who) as the King.

I thought it was pretty decent, but yeah you can tell the production values aren’t super duper high. It was obviously filmed in Eastern Europe somewhere. Still, I enjoyed it.

It’s not the production values, which I think are actually OK. It’s more that there’s something lacking in the acting, even though I wouldn’t call any of the actors wooden. I’m having trouble quantifying it, but as I said before I think it’s the pacing. It’s a cliche that comedy is in the timing, but the same is true of drama. Scenes go by woosh-woosh-woosh, and feel flat as a result. Gloucester and future King Stephen going at it swords over not-enough provocation is typical, and was even more unsatisfying when they just drop it after Gloucester wins. Like the director said “this bit of angry dialog is boring, let’s spice it up with some completely pointless swordplay.”

Only McShane and Macfayden seem able to breath real life into their characters under the circumstances. The rest deliver their lines well enough, but seem… colorless. Even William, the cardboard villain, seems bland.

  • Gus

Yeah, I couldn’t really put my finger on it either. The actors just aren’t that good. I kept thinking about Deadwood as I just started re-watching that. Unfair comparison probably, but it is hard for me to watch this while watching Deadwood.

I don’t think you can really compare it to series that HBO and Showtime run, because those channels have far larger budgets. I think you have to take it in it’s context. It sits pretty much in the same tier of BBC2 type stuff, and about the same level of production of other Starz series.

I also haven’t read the book, so you guys may have some preconceived notions going in.

You must read the book. It’s really good. On Kindle too:)

Oh yeah, I put it in my list. I remember hearing about it, but for some reason I never did get around to reading it!

Again, I don’t see the budget as being what’s holding it back. I’m not really feeling like it was made on the cheap watching it, as I have with many BBC series. For that matter, I, Claudius was far more compelling than this, and that really looked low budget, almost to being a stage play.

While I have read the book, I don’t think that’s it either. I remember almost nothing at this point, most of the political maneuvering came as a surprise watching the Starz version.

  • Gus

Lower budget=lower tier of actors. If you watch the jumble of consonants in the credits, you can tell they hired a lot of local talent.

Compare to something like the tudors, where you have a lot of high profile brit actors.

Really really rough introduction to the series. Title cards and eighteen year time jumps in the first five minutes made it tough to get invested. Great opening credits, though.

Knowing how bad Spartacus was and how far it came by the finale, I’m willing to give this a chance. At least I wasn’t openly laughing at the first episode of Pillars.

This cannot really be compared to Spartacus, but as far a cable TV series go, I still found Pillars to be less than entertaining. I will give it another episode also hoping that in improves. The ratio of interesting to non-interesting characters is much worse in this when compared to Spartacus. I am assuming Spartacus has a larger budget, too, and could get better talent. Not sure I have the time in my TV watching schedule to watch one that barely keeps me watching when there is so much else out there.

Well it is a miniseries rather than a series, so at least for me, I give it more of a chance since there is no long-term investment.

Oh yeah, I completely forgot that part. Now I am swinging the other way. :)

I’m re-reading the book, and the thing that I noticed most was that Follett does not jump around between viewpoints as much as the adaptation. Much of the same material gets covered, but we never see most of the conversations between the nobles depicted in the TV version. Rather, the fact that Stephen took the throne from Maude is mentioned, but not shown, and certainly there’s no silly inconclusive swordfight between Stephen and Gloucester because we don’t meet those characters until much, much later in the narrative. Instead, we spend a lot more time with Tom Builder and his troubles before switching to watching Prior Philip for a while.

Eventually we do see some things from William Hamleigh’s point of view, but otherwise the book doesn’t spend much time with the nobility directly at all. Their squabbles are more of a backdrop to the lives of the main characters (Tom and Philip), rather than being more front-and-center as they are in the TV version.

Of course, I’m not very far at this point, and haven’t quite caught up to the second episode of the TV adaptation yet.

  • Gus

This would be far more entertaining if Derek Jacobi made the occasional appearance as a crime-solving monk.