REVIEW: CNN’s ‘King Charles’- Promise Unkept

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After much promotional pomp and circumstance, the collaborative series featuring Gayle King and Charles Barkley, titled with the clever eponym “King Charles”, finally launched as a “limited series”. Does the show live up to the hype or is it more of the same performative wokery in a different package for CNN viewers?

In a nutshell, it’s more of the same. 

The show kicks off with a bold promise in its intro: “We won’t waste your time”. Some uncomfortable early banter in-studio is highlighted by Barkley needing to clarify that “King Charles” is not self-puffery but a play on both hosts’ names: Gayle King, Charles Barkley. That right there is an indication that the show is doomed to fail because of you’re having to explain the show’s title within the first two minutes, you’re definitely losing. The show offers a call-in number where people can leave their voice mails. Not quite the Larry King callback, but there you go.

The show kicks off with a segment on George Santos’ potential expulsion from Congress, featuring Laura Coates and Van Lathan to do all the analytical heavy lifting. King moderates and keeps the conversation moving, Sir Charles offers analyses on Santos that amount to little more than variations on “that’s turrible”. 

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Next, Fat Joe joins Coates and King for a segment on the Young Thug trial in Atlanta. “Martin Scorsese should be in jail for 10 million years” was Fat Joe’s contribution to this segment, as the rest of the panel weaved in and around RICO, implications for Donald Trump (the case is being brought by the same prosecutor, Fani Willis), and whether art can be held against artists in criminal proceedings. 

Steve Kerr came on to talk about Israel-Gaza, and managed to find a way to weave gun control advocacy into the discussion on what’s happening in Gaza and terrorism:

STEVE KERR: Every time I hear about someone dying from gun violence, I think about my own experience and the shock and pain that goes with it, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve really taken on, you know, the gun violence prevention issue as kind of a pet project, something that I really devote a lot of time to. 

CHARLES BARKLEY: Yeah. I was going to say, Steve, number one, I want to thank you personally. I want to thank Gregg Popovich. We got a lot of other great coaches, you know, talking about George Floyd. You spoke brilliant about that, you and coach Popovich, about police brutality. But to piggy back on your point about the gun violence, what do you think really needs to be done? Because we seem to be having these conversations every week, every month, every year. 

KERR: Right. 

BARKLEY: What do we really need to do to address gun violence? 

KERR: Well, unfortunately, our democracy’s not working right now, Charles. Because if you look at the data, 80% of Americans — 80% to 90% of Americans want universal background checks, regardless if you’re a Republican or Democrat. 70% of Americans think that weapons of military background — AR-15s, semiautomatic rifles — 70% of us don’t believe American citizens should have their hands on weapons like those. But our policy don’t reflect that. Our policies that the government has the power to put in place don’t reflect the people’s wishes. And so it’s yet another issue in American society that’s tied up in politics and money and power. Frankly what we actually need is some Republican candidates to be able to run on a policy of gun violence prevention and not be kicked out of their party. If they can actually run and win elections with the idea of protecting American families, now our democracy will work. But we’re too tied up in political turmoil for that to actually happen right now.

It’s all there: the George Floyd tie-in and segue into a ramble on gun control, which of course, went unchecked and uncontested because this show is magenta-themed cotton candy for CNN’s audience. No one was there to tell Kerr that our Constitution wasn’t amended with a Bill of Wishes. And good luck confiscating semiautomatics.

That segment was followed by an interview with journalists whose respective beats cover Beyoncé and Taylor Swift. Suppress your feelings of empathy for me for watching this idiocy so you don’t have to. As Hyman Roth said to Don Michael Corleone, this is the business we’ve chosen.

The show ends with its first voice mail- a prank voice mail from Shaquille O’Neal to Barkley. One might reasonably be led to believe that every other voice mail was critical of the programming. 

If this maiden broadcast is any indication, “King Charles” failed to live up to its promise. You all did waste our time.   

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