With both ABC and NBC premiering their contemporary takes on the fairy tale this week, it has made me reminisce about NBC’s own such attempt 11 years ago.
The 10th Kingdom was the classic definition of the miniseries. The Halmis, Hallmark, and a runtime longer than four hours. It was a large production, expansive (and expensive) and very fantastical.
Though it was far from a ratings blockbuster, the five-night, ten hour event was worthy of being dubbed an “epic” based on its story, cast and production alone.
Kimberly Williams (before Paisley) stars as Virginia Lewis, a cynical and tired New York waitress who embarks on an unlikely adventure with her selfish and greedy father Tony (played by John Larroquette) through the mythical Nine Kingdoms.
The Evil Queen (Dianne Weist) has escaped from prison and turned the soon-to-be-King of the 4th Kingdom, Prince Wendell (Daniel Lapaine) into a dog. And as a dog, Prince Wendell leads Virginia, Tony and Wolf (Scott Cohen) who struggles between his deal with the Queen and his love for Virginia.
Virginia and Tony, at the center of it all, traverse Wendell’s 4th Kingdom in search of the magic mirror that has transported them from Central Park to this world so they can go home. Along the way, they get involved with gypsies, a huntsman, trolls, a blind woodcutter named named Juliet, the Tooth Fairy who hawks watches, slutty shepherdesses and even a wisecracking frog.
But also along the way, they learn more about themselves and grow into the heroes they will eventually become.
Thankfully, The 10th Kingdom is on DVD. Admittedly, I didn’t know so many people still remember this gem until seeing all the tweets and Tumblr GIF and meme posts.
The miniseries was (and still is after 11 years) magical and imaginative. A darkly funny and epic adventure. Though the miniseries spends most of its time in the Kingdoms, the blending of the two worlds and modern and medieval innovations and culture was and is fun, fresh and creative.
The 10th Kingdom features an all-star cast. Some great and fun performances from Ed O’Neill (as the Troll King) and Scott Cohen as well as shorter, but mark-leaving performances from Rutger Hauer (as the Hunstman), Camryn Manheim (as Snow White), and Ann-Margret (as the elderly Cinderella).
But it is the performances of the three arguable stars of the miniseries, Kimberly Williams, John Larroquette and Dianne Weist. Weist portrays the Evil Queen as just that, evil and slightly insane. Weist relishes in the role, enjoys it and at the end of the miniseries, gives that emotional punch that makes you rethink everything about the previous six hours.
The entire miniseries rests on the shoulders of the father and daughter team of Tony and Virginia. Kimberly Williams and John Larroquette share a great back and forth chemistry. They are distant, yet close. They care about themselves, but really care more about each other. They start the miniseries as slightly unlikeable characters, but grow into their destined roles as rootable, bumbling, but loveable heroes.
The 10th Kingdom has romance, adventure, lots of comedy, emotional drama, even mystery and suspense.
From finding love to appreciating family to the idea that indeed “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” the miniseries managed several acts that dealt with different, varying themes, but still kept a cohesive, constantly flowing story. Exciting, enchanting, gripping, and nonstop fun, The 10th Kingdom is truly a television epic that deserves to be discovered, like the fairy tale that it is, for many generations to come.
AND! You can’t forget the Emmy winning opening title sequence:
Here’s just a taste of the miniseries via one of the TV spots on NBC: