By Clark Collis
March 16, 2009 at 09:30 AM EDT

I seem to have spent a goodly portion of the last two decades watching Ian McShane, whether he was playing an amiable antiques dealer in the BBC dramedy Lovejoy, a demonic whoremaster in HBO’s horse opera Deadwood or a deranged paterfamilias in the recent Broadway revival of Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming. Actually, it’s safe to say that I’ll watch the routinely awesome British thesp in pretty much anything. The main problem with Kings—which finds McShane portraying, with his usual reptilian brilliance, the monarch of an imaginary but America-like country named Gilboa—is that I’m sure what kind of “thing” I’m watching him in.

The two-hour series premiere, which was directed by I Am Legend helmer Francis Lawrence, had a God-ish bent. The plot was inspired by the story of David and Goliath with McShane’s young co-star Christopher Egan playing a soldier named David who blows up an enemy country’s “Goliath” tank while rescuing the king’s son. Eamon Walker from Oz, meanwhile, essays a priest who seems to represent the conscience of the morally dubious McShane. But you wouldn’t say Kings was a religious show. Nor is it really a political satire, despite the presence of a somewhat Dick Cheney-esque character—played by Dylan Baker—who is desperate for Gilboa to remain at war for financial reasons. Maybe what Kings creator—and Heroes writer—Michael Green was shooting for is a sort of alternative reality Sopranos and, certainly, this premiere had both fatalities and familial intrigue. But one wonders if network restrictions might put off fans of David Chase’s far bloodier, far more foul-mouthed mob drama or, indeed, those of the equally adult entertainment that was Deadwood.

So, Popwatchers, am I just being dim? Have you figured out what kind of show Kings is supposed to be?  Or, if not, will you be sticking around to find out?

addCredit(“Eric Liebowitz/NBC”)