TV Review: ‘Tut’

Tut TV Review Spike TV
Courtesy of Spike TV

King Tutankhamun left behind a treasure trove of trinkets, but his nickname is all that’s really required to serve as the cornerstone for “Tut,” a Spike TV miniseries that unearths the Boy King in order to turn his short life into historical melodrama. Featuring Ben Kingsley as Tut’s scheming vizier, surrounded by young actors often photographed as if this were a shampoo commercial, there are modest pleasures relating to the various palace intrigues, but only marginal momentum to drag an audience across three nights, provided they know enough about history to realize the title character won’t be available for a sequel.

Shot in Morocco at a scale that frequently looks as if it features a cast of, well, dozens, “Tut” begins with the name/age at death and works backward from there. As a result, writers Michael Vickerman, Peter Paige and Bradley Bredeweg and director David Von Ancken start with a Pharoah whose life ended at 19, laboring to conjure enough story to fill in the rest.

That framework (sort of an upside-down pyramid, really) by necessity turns “Tut” into a kind of murder mystery, with nights one and two laying out a web of relationships that might explain who or what killed the young king, earnestly played by Avan Jogia. The suspects include the aforementioned vizier Ay, whose loyalty is balanced against his ambition; Tut’s half-sister Ankhe (“Tyrant’s” Sibylla Deen), whom he was compelled to marry at age 9, when he became Pharoah; Amun (Alexander Siddig), the High Priest, who frets about Tut’s questionable devotion to the gods; and Gen. Horemheb (Nonso Anozie), whose martial ambitions are curbed by Tut’s more level-headed approach to foreign affairs.

In Tut’s corner, meanwhile, sit the loyal soldier Lagus (Iddo Goldberg) and the beautiful Suhad (Kylie Bunbury, also currently trapped “Under the Dome”), who instantly wins the Pharoah’s affection, and helps nurse him back to health after a military excursion leaves the world thinking he’s dead.

Night one, alas, is filled with so much silliness that it’s difficult for the story to recover its bearings. And even with some solid performances, toga-shedding sex and power-mad scheming, some of the more dramatic interludes – such as a second-night plague that sweeps the city – feel like just killing time, while reminding us that the healthcare system circa 1323 B.C. had its flaws.

Since most people’s knowledge of Tut is limited to about three words – tomb, artifacts, Egypt, plus perhaps a few lines of Steve Martin’s song – the producers use that license to infuse the project with epic qualities, including a turf war with the Mitanni, a nearby people intent on overrunning Egypt. But beyond a few computer-enhanced shots meant to create the illusion of scope, this was clearly produced on a level that won’t prompt anyone to confuse it with “Game of Thrones,” despite the fact that jockeying to sit on Tut’s throne is very much at the heart of matter.

One thing’s for certain: This is Tut as you’ve never seen him before (heck, nobody has), a warrior king who leads his men into battle and endures serious wounds – at least, you know, for a while.

Taken strictly on its own terms, “Tut” has a florid quality that can be intermittently fun, in a campy sort of way. That said, the script doesn’t withstand much scrutiny, placing a great deal of emphasis on Tut’s legacy, when in fact he’s remembered not for what he did but rather what he had – and indeed, the mere fact somebody happened to find it.

Tut lives on in the mind, in other words, thanks to the arbitrary discovery of his possessions, which makes investing him with these noble attributes kind of a laugh. And while this miniseries that appropriates the name isn’t bad to look at, it is, finally, pretty forgettable.

TV Review: 'Tut'

(Miniseries; Spike, Sun.-Tues. July 19-21, 9 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in Morocco by Muse Entertainment.

Crew

Executive producers, Joel S. Rice, Michael Prupas, David Von Ancken, Michael Vickerman, Greg Gugliotta, Sharon Levy, Jeremy Elice, Angela Mancuso; co-executive producer, Vlad Wolynetz; producers, Guy Jon Louthan, Irene Litinsky; director, Von Ancken; writers, Vickerman, Peter Paige, Bradley Bredeweg; camera, Chris LaVasseur; production designer, Michael Z. Hanan; editors, Christopher Gay, Annie Ilkow, Erik Presant; music, Jeff Russo; casting, Junie Lowry Johnson, Libby Goldstein, John Hubbard, Ros Hubbard. 6 HOURS

Cast

Ben Kingsley, Avan Jogia, Sibylla Deen, Alexander Siddig, Kylie Bunbury, Peter Gadiot, Iddo Goldberg, Nonso Anozie

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  1. victoriagrad says:

    I do not know what kind of critic you are, but, what you are not is most definitely a motion picture for television, critic. There are more people who like this production than people who criticize it. the actors did, at least, a beautiful job. Avan Jogia, sir Ben Kingsley and the rest, transported viewers to Egypt during the 18th dynasty.

  2. Oney says:

    An absolutely wonderful series. I agree the sound was a problem. There was alot of action and the actors were outstanding. Tut’s actor was very cute. I have since put visiting Egypt and Cairo (where the Tut exhibit is located) on my bucket list. I grew up wanting to be an archaeologist–wish I had pursued it–I do teach biology though! I too hungered for more- but with the death of the boy kingwhere would it go next? It would no longer be Tut!!

  3. Laurene Kerr says:

    This movie miniseries really stirred my thoughts and wanring to research King Tut and how the story was told what truths did it hold and what was take from the writers imagination. I must say this story really caught my attention and keeped my interest all three nights. Thank you

  4. Joy Kahn says:

    Loved all three nights, Avan was great, very good job of acting! Ben Kingsley as usual was wonderful! Hope to see a lot more of Avan in the future. I will, as well, give it two thumbs up!!

  5. Sharon Singleton says:

    I watched all 3 nights & was NOT disappointed. Would like “Tut” to have lived longer to see what he could have done to Egypt. Loved Ben Kingsley & Avan Joglia. Don’t know if the “General” was a real character or not, but was not fond of him or the “High Priest”.

    • carbar says:

      He died very young late teens, early 20’s, and almost the entire 3 nights were fiction. Much as I enjoyed it, very little is known about King Tut and even less his sister. Thus, the truth stretching for the 6 hrs. even was make believe melodramatic. Albeit entertaining to not take seriously.

      Enjoyed it, but saw it as it was, imagination on producers, writers, etc parts . However, when this occurs it should be a warning in opening credits etc. Somebody is going 2 believe all that drama btwn the 2 women happened.

      Mostly felt bad for Sir Ben. Too great of an actor to be in this particular production. Fine for new actors to get USA viewers or B level actors but not for Sir Ben. Either he owed a favor or needed the $$.

  6. Gary says:

    I enjoyed it too much more than I expected. I usually loathe mini-series nowadays but this was such an exception. I think they did an excellent job across the board. The score was wonderful. I was totally engaged from beginning to end. I hope this team does more. They’re the ones that should re-do CLEOPATRA. Again, job well done. Well produced and well directed. I give it an A-.

  7. Ari says:

    I enjoyed Tut, It was a short series however I wish it would of been much longer, I give it 5 starts.

  8. Karla says:

    Everyone of course is entitled to their own opinion and here’s mine. I enjoyed Tut immensely and I give it two thumbs up. All the garbage that is on television today this is a refreshing change if you didn’t care for it after the premier then you should have turned the channel. Just saying

  9. Roger Bove says:

    Too bad that the Mitanni never made it anywhere near the Nile.

  10. Eric Bryce says:

    Historically inaccurate (for obvious reasons), gory, poor sound quality, very good sets and set decoration as well as costumes, a good attempt at an epic melodrama about an historical figure that history forgot, but definitely forgettable. Not sure why they cast Horemheb and the Mitanni people from Asia Minor that was at war with Egypt with black actors.

    • carbar says:

      Because there are some archeologist & history that says they were black as in not indo. Asia Minor (Turkey) do you really think that Turkish people way back then look like they do today?

  11. ken..... says:

    i really am enjoying this tut movie…. historiclefiction at it’s best…I wish they would revive Borgia….pope alexander 6th…that would be cool!

  12. Ralph says:

    The actors, their costumes, the sets, and the scenery are all feasts for the viewers eyes. The critics negatives are understandable since this is not high Shakespearean drama but who needs that on a lazy, hazy, relaxing summer night?

  13. george says:

    Just finished watching the first episode. Thought it was entertaining and enjoyable to watch. Acting was good too. Not sure why all the critics are so negative…….I believe it well worth watching…..kudos to the main actors too.

  14. c o says:

    It’s on Spike. That’s all we needed to know.

    • sunday aito says:

      A beautiful mini series whose story line had me tearing up like never before in my adult life.
      As fictitious as the story may be, it was riveting and only serves to deepen the mystery of king Tut’s death at such a tender age. Good production. Couldn’t careless what the critics think.

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