is one family drama that could not take place in New York, because that pesky ban
on mixed martial arts bouts remains in effect. Instead, the Kulina family weighs-in
in Venice, California, where hardnoses and stoners live in close proximity.
Time will tell whether the family that cage-fights together, stays together in
creator-showrunner Byron Balasco’s Kingdom
premieres on DirecTV’s Audience Network this coming Wednesday.
Kulina came up in the wild and woolly days of MMA, faring just well enough to
earn a small but devoted fanbase. Retired from the ring, but still seriously
bad, Kulina now owns and operates Navy St. MMA, where he trains the general
public and potential contenders alike. Currently, the best fighter in his gym
is his youngest son, Nate. Kulina’s eldest son Jay also used to train at Navy
St., but his father gave him the boot because of his bad attitude and hard
their lives some drama will fall when Ryan Wheeler is released from prison.
Kulina used to manage the natural born fighter, but Wheeler abruptly dumped him
just as his career ignited. When Wheeler’s drug-fueled rage landed him a stint
up the river, his girlfriend Lisa Prince understandably cut her losses.
Regretfully, he came to realize she was probably “the one,” but she has since
become involved with Alvey Kulina. So yeah, awkward. There also happen to be a
couple of drug dealers out for revenge after the beatdown old man Kulina lays
on them in the opening minutes of the show. He’s such a badass, he hardly gives
it any thought, but they seem rather put out by it.
question, Frank Grillo (from Captain
America: The Winter Soldier and Warrior)
is the key piece to this puzzle. He has all kinds of grit and presence as the
senior Kulina, bringing legit action chops to the party as well. Frankly, Kingdom is a perfect example why you
need to see a fair number of episodes before passing judgment on a series,
because Jay Kulina is like fingernails on the blackboard in the first episode,
but in the next three installments, Jonathan Tucker gets a solid handle on the
character, making his irresponsible self-destructiveness sympathetic and
sometimes even fun.
Kiele Sanchez’s Prince initially only seems to be around to lecture Alvey
regarding money issues as Navy St.’s business manager, but she develops in insightful
ways, particularly with respects to the older Kulina siblings. There is an
understanding she probably has more in common with the Kulina brothers, but finds
herself a maternal role, by virtue of her relationship with the father.
Unfortunately, Nick Jonas’s moody energy-killing brooding is still pretty
boring, but there is time to figure out something better for Nate to do.
given Prince’s proactive nature and the surprisingly high ratio of interpersonal
drama to MMA, Kingdom appears to be
targeting women as much as men. There are certainly plenty of shirtless guys,
but there is also some well staged MMA sequences and the occasional bit of
female nudity, in order to establish its cable-satellite edginess.
Not surprisingly, as a blend of MMA and family
melodrama, Kingdom is somewhat
uneven, but briskly watchable, firmly held together by Grillo’s grizzled
coolness. At risk of abusing metaphors, you might argue it wins a split
decision. Sort of a slightly guilty pleasure for fans of the sport, Kingdom premieres this Wednesday (10/8) on
DirecTV’s Audience Network.
Labels: DirecTV, Frank Grillo, MMA