Klondike Mini-Series Review
In early 2014 the Discovery Channel embarked on a completely new endeavor: scripted narrative television. Until Klondike
I’ll look at it two ways: first, I’ll review the ratings and what the critics said. Second, I’ll discuss how I feel about the mini-series.
Looking at the analytics of Klondike is a little skewed for the Discovery Channel since they have no metrics to check the show’s success against. But, the first episode (which is listed as two separate episodes on IMDB) garnered a massive 3.4 million views in the US (1.9 million in Canada), far surpassing any other premiere night the network had previously had. The following night (January 21st) ratings dipped down to 3.13 million in the US; and the finale on January 22nd only brought in 2.85 million views. *Ratings gathered via Variety (variety.com).
If you’re following the numbers it may look like audiences stopped watching the series as it progressed. This may be true. But, having the 6 one-hour-long episodes played over the course of three consecutive nights (2 episodes per night) makes it hard for viewers to stay up with the mini-series. Asking viewers to give up one night of their regular programs for a mini-series is feasible, but giving up more than half the workweek programming is a hard request. It seems like Discovery did themselves a disservice by not showing the series over the course of 3 (or even better, 6) weeks.
Klondike is based off of Charlotte Gray’s 2010 novel, Gold Diggers: Striking it Rich in the Klondike (amazon.com), which profiles real events that happened in Dawson City during the Yukon gold rush in the 1890’s. I haven’t read the novel, so I can’t attest to how accurate the show is to the novel; but I really enjoyed the unfurling of Klondike’s web. The story centers around Bill Haskell, played by Rich Madden (imdb.com); but uses him as a vehicle to introduce other characters and weave the audience through the politics and interactions of the supplemental characters. While I enjoyed the story immensely (all the right action and tension and emotion at all the right moments), the last episode felt entirely too rushed. The previous parts spent a lot of time building up characters and relationships, and the final episode pushed fast to reconcile everything, but ultimately left me wanting more.
I was already a fan of Rich Madden from his role in Game of Thrones, but seeing him play a completely different character was really refreshing. I’m glad that he’s proving to be more versatile than previously imagined. But with names like Sam Shepard (imdb.com), Tim Roth (imdb.com), and Tim Blake Nelson (imdb.com) backing you up, it’s hard to not draw in a crowd. Klondike may not be a stand-out role for these veterans, but they definitely delivered top-notch performances. I especially enjoyed Tim Blake Nelson as Meeker; it was vaguely reminiscent of his role in Holes. A less well-known name that I thought was brilliant was Marton Csokas (imdb.com). His depiction of the Superintendent was unlike other roles I’ve seen him in; you can visibly see his inner conflict; he also portrayed a more warm and conscientious character then prior roles.
I’d never previously seen any of Mike Eley’s (imdb.com) work; but if Klondike is an example of his style, then I really want to see more. The cinematography, while maybe not the most ground breaking, is beautiful. Eley’s choice of compositions lean toward mediums and close-ups, sparingly using wide sweeping shots; unlike most other “grand” stories. He really dialed into the emotion of each individual shot and captured the intensity of the characters. The clean shooting style pays off tremendously and gives a nice contrast to the grittiness of the environment.
Sets, Wardrobe, Art
I’m torn between loving and hating the production design in Klondike. On one hand, the sets, costumes, and production design are fantastic. But on the other hand, I feel like it wasn’t entirely time appropriate. As an example, Bill Haskell wears a blue beanie, and while knit hats did exist in the 1890’s, the quality of his stood out as more modern. For the most part, the sets and costumes pulled scenes together and really drew me into the story. But there were a number of instances when a prop pr piece of wardrobe stood out as feeling out-of-place.
If I were to give Klondike a rating out of 1-10, I’d give it an 8 (or somewhere around there). The story was great; and the directing, acting, editing, and camerawork truly enhanced the way I felt about the scenes. But certain elements of the design, and a rushed ending pulled me back out of the story. So, was Klondike a success? I think so. They took cues from other networks and made a great product. They may have shot themselves in the foot the way they programmed it, but having a network record-breaking premiere is nothing to scoff at. Even though Discovery has said that they won’t be doing a follow-up to the Klondike story, I would watch one.
Watch the trailer, then go find the show to watch.
Klondike Mini-Series Review