Apr 7 2009 11:16am

Work Those Umlauts, Baby: Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire

Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire premiers on Comedy Central on April 9. It’s a sort of Robin-Hood-in-D&D-land sitcom where a few adventurers try to overthrow the evil dictatorship—you know how it is. Krod’s1 rebel cell includes his girlfriend Aneka, an inept wizard, and a bumbling big man; they’re later joined by Bruce, a lisping gay escapee from the bad guy’s dungeons. The show dips easily into standard offensive fare. (On Comedy Central? No way!) Politically-Correct Intellectual Megan looks down her nose and asks, could the gay character not be a caricature? I’m not sure why he’s on the show other than to be effeminate and hypersexual. And would it be possible for Aneka to not do a pole-dance and declare sex her chosen weapon? I don’t even mind the Xena outfit, but her blonde highlights and ridiculous Barbie-style blue eyeshadow just say to me, “Let’s make her as hot as possible to a modern audience.” Actress India de Beaufort is beautiful. Can she be beautiful while kicking ass, like in the first tavern brawl, rather than giving up her throwing stars and long daggers and, shortly thereafter, her underwear?

And yet, Easygoing And Occasionally Immature Megan finds herself charmed by Sean McGuire. Don’t hold Meet the Spartans against him; he plays Krod Mandoon as a sort of narcissistic Luke Skywalker, an inept and fresh-faced freedom fighter in a den of equally inept thieves. He’s so earnest that I laugh when one of his merry band shoots him by accident and he says, “No more crossbow for you! Ever!” Or, to an enemy soldier who insults him, “I just have to ask, what makes you say ‘worm-faced’?”

Little Britain’s wonderful Matt Lucas plays evil Chancellor Dongalor. He also steps into stereotypical queeny-guy territory occasionally—“I haven’t really got the thighs to pull off a loincloth!”—but the difference is that he’s not the butt of gay jokes and clearly has a purpose in the show. It’s just part of his character to be the kind of guy who would try on a furry loincloth and then stab someone for laughing. There’s an offensive (there she goes again!) sequence with a young woman, so I don’t think Donaglor is actually attracted to men, he’s just whacky, and Lucas is playing that character rather than counting on any one joke to be entertaining.

In a clip that I think is on YouTube and can't find for the life of me, Stephen Fry once explained that the secret to funny sketch comedy is to commit to telling a story and commit to a character, and then if any of the jokes fall flat, you’re still telling a story. If you just have jokes, and they’re not funny or the audience gets tired of the “black wizard occasionally talking like a modern-day black youth!” gag, you have nothing left. I can’t tell if it’s uneven writing that makes a third of the characters actually likable or if those actors are just better at their craft.

Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire had moments I liked, but I can probably catch those on YouTube and save myself the agony of listening to Aneka discuss how being the token, um, pagan means she has to sleep with a lot of men.

1 Let's face it, the umlauts are decorative.

Richard Fife
1. R.Fife
Wow... this doesn't perchance have the same production crew as our favorite other medieval-fantasy shows (Hercules, Xena, Legends of the Seeker).

I remember when I was in Improv Comedy, and the first rule was to not "try" to be funny. Just worry about building the scene and telling the story, and let the whackiness happen naturally from the "off the top of your head" stuff. It worked for Ghostbusters, and while I doubt you want to film a sitcom with only a skeleton script, the scripting sessions could work this way and not force issues.

Although, I can't quite grip if you were being critical of the show or not. I got the "you can afford to miss it" feel, but were you saying it felt was more like "Bad Santa" with just a string of funny jokes but no links, or that it did have some cohesion to get past the overused "funny" tropes of fantasy tv series?

Edit: love the last tag assigned to this. Just wanted to put that in. Not that I /love/ it.. but... well.. um... yeah...
Megan Messinger
2. thumbelinablues
Excellent! I have successfully communicated my ambivalence. :-P Like my feelings, the show wobbled back and forth between jokey sequences and having a plot. I've only seen the one-hour pilot (typo: pillow...must be morning), so it could easily get better or worse.

Ghostbusters was filmed with a skeleton script? I believe it, because those guys are all comedic geniuses, but extra wow. That's exactly what the show is missing: personable whackiness, smoothness, a sense of working with partners rather than focusing on your own delivery. And yet, I might watch it with my dad or something. We'll see if the cast gets more comfortable and/or if the writers pull it together.

Glad I went with that tag instead of my other option, "STD jokes waiting to happen."
Richard Fife
3. R.Fife
Ah, if I had cable, I might check it out. Any clue if it will be on hulu?

And yeah, I didn't know Ghostbusters had been that way either until I watched the rather brilliant MST3K style commentary on the DVD. Dan Akryod had the original idea for the show, but it was way different than what we got (he wanted Stay Puff in the first ten minutes), and many many of the scenes were re-written on the spot as the big three made up jokes on set, sometimes spontaneously during a take or sometimes inbetween as a "wouldn't it be better if I said this?" stuff.

It also shows that the a stronger script and attempt towards gimmick was in the second movie, which I still love, but just doesn't have the same zest as the first, ne?

Oh, and I watched the trailer on youtube, and I have to wonder, in a world of magic and flaming swords, if it is noteworthy to comment the gal is "Pagan", what are the other characters? Layabout athiests?
Eugene Myers
4. ecmyers
Yeah, this doesn't look so good. It would be neat if they could do a Get Smart-style fantasy series, but this isn't it. I just watched the preview trailer on YouTube and now I feel sorry for John Rhys Davies, who seems to be relegated to crap like this and Sci Fi Original movies. What happened to the man who got out of Sliders because the show was becoming less sophisticated?

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