For years, it seemed the History Channel was lost in the weeds. Despite changing their name to HISTORY, their shows were more “mindless reality TV binge watch” and less “did I just accidentally learn something?” An intellectual wasteland, Ancient Aliens was the closest you could find to an edutainment series on the channel from 2010 to 2013. Then along came Vikings, and everything changed.
Vikings premiered to 6 million viewers – and while not 100% historically accurate, it was head and shoulders above HISTORY”S other offerings at the time. The success opened the door to programming like the limited-series Barbarians Rising and the recent remake of Roots. But until now, Vikings has been the lone HISTORY historical series, adrift in a sea of Mountain Men and Swamp People. This solitude ends when Knightfall joins the line-up.
A new series from Jeremy Renner”s (yes, Hawkeye) and Don Handfield”s production company The Combine and Midnight Radio, Knightfall will follow the Vikings model of blending history and drama, only this time during the fall of the Knights Templar. One of the most mysterious and powerful orders of the Middle Ages, the Knights Templar were a military group entrusted with the keeping of the Holy Grail and – according to legend – knew secrets about the Church that could bring it to its knees. But they were also an order of men, with all the messy politicking and “mean-girling” that entails.
Knightfall promises to go deep into the inner circle of the Knights Templar”s clandestine world. Not just the battles in the Holy Land, but the battles on the home front. Not everyone loved the Templars, leading to clashes with both the King of France and Pope Boniface VIII. The latter of which would end in the disbanding the order on Friday the 13th, which is why the date is considered unlucky even now. Oh, look! The show hasn”t even started, and you”re already learning something.
Production for Knightfall begins this summer in Croatia and the Czech Republic. Tom Cullen (Downton Abbey) was previously announced to star as Landry, a former warrior and current leader of the Knights Templar. But now the cast is fully in place and ready to return to the 12th century. From the press release:
[Starring] Bobby Schofield (Black Sea, Our World War) as Parsifal, a young man of ordinary birth who will join the Knights Templar seeking revenge, but ultimately finds a higher purpose; Sabrina Bartlett (DaVinci”s Demons, Poldark) as Princess Isabella, Queen Joan and King Philip's daughter, her upcoming wedding stands to forge a powerful political alliance for France; Julian Ovenden (Downton Abbey, Person of Interest, The Colony) as De Nogaret, King Philip”s Machiavellian lawyer and right hand man; Sarah-Sofie Boussnina (The Bridge, The Absent One) as Adelina, as a child she was rescued in the Holy Land by the Templar Knights, but now in her early 20s, she lives on the streets of Paris as a thief; Padraic Delaney (The Wind That Shakes the Barley, The Tudors) as Gawain, once the greatest swordsman of the Templar Order whose role with them is at a crossroads; Simon Merrells (Spartacus, Dominion ) as Tancrede, a veteran sergeant fanatically devoted to the Templar Knight cause and Olivia Ross (War and Peace, Blowing Louder than the Wind , Father of My Children) as Queen Joan of Navarre, Queen of France and Queen Regnant of Navarre, a devoted mother, warrior, and a formidable diplomat and strategist.
We”re entering a new era. One in which HISTORY retakes the torch. It was up to Comedy Central, of all places, to keep the learning fires alive with Drunk History and Another Period. But now the original is back, and hopefully better than ever.