Merlin is a prime time drama series based on the legend of Camelot. Originally airing on the BBC in 2008, the series premiered in the US in June, 2009 when NBC bought the American broadcast rights. The second season of Merlin ran on the BBC from spring 2009 to September 2009. Filming of a third season began in Wales in April of this year. Camelot is said to be the center of King Arthur Pendragon's realm in Britain although, according to many historians, Camelot was not a real place and has no real basis in history.
King Uther Pendragon (Anthony Head, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is a tyrant who rules Camelot. He banishes magic from his realm and condemns to death anyone who practices it. Merlin (Colin Morgan, Doctor Who) is a man with magical powers who arrives in Camelot during this time. He learns that his future is tied to the young Prince Arthur (Bradley James, Portobello 196). Merlin learns to control his powers and help Prince Arthur with the help of court physician Gaius (Richard Wilson, Demons) and the Great Dragon (John Hurt, Hellboy).
Merlin: The Complete First Season takes place when all the characters are teenagers so it's loaded with lots of typical teenage angst including rebellion against father figures, teen romance, and drama. The characters are, of course, mostly gorgeous and attractive which further leads to the appeal to the younger crowd. This is a great way to draw a new generation into the story of Camelot although if you're looking for historical accuracy you won't find it here.
While Merlin is very entertaining, it doesn't hold true to the standard Arthurian legend at all although it wasn't the producers' intention to stay true to the legend. Merlin should be an old man and well versed in magic use and not a teenager who doesn't do magic very well. They took out the entire incestuous aspect of the legend where Merlin enchants Arthur to look like Morgan's father so that they can be intimate. Uther Pendragon was ambushed and killed when Arthur was just a baby according to legend; however in this movie he's alive and well. Guinevere in the movie is black and definitely wasn't in the legend. There are a number of other inaccuracies but the show is still very entertaining and should serve to interest a whole new audience in learning more about the "real" legend of Arthur.
You would think that with magic banished, the story would be lacking in the magic area, but there's tons of magic and special effects shown in the show. The special effects are pretty good but nothing amazing. I think they could have done the dragon a bit more realistically. Most of the scenes in Merlin were filmed in Pierrefonds, France in a real castle which lends to the feel of authenticity. Thankfully, the series isn't loaded with teen sexcapades with everyone falling into bed with everyone else which means this makes a fantastic family show that is suitable for all ages except the very young since there are a few scary scenes that might be a bit too much for them.
Overall I enjoyed the series. It doesn't really follow the legend very well so if you try to think of it too much as the legend of Arthur it gets confusing trying to mesh the two together. However, if you look at it as a magical adventure set in ancient England, it's quite enjoyable.
Merlin: The Complete First Season contains all 13 episodes from the television drama series. It is contained on five discs and has over two hours of special features including two making-of featurettes, video diaries, photo galleries, audio commentary, and wallpaper.