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Kingdom: the best MMA show you haven’t seen

Kingdom: the best MMA show you haven’t seen

There isn’t enough being said about Kingdom, which is now in its second season and airing on DirecTV. For the uninitiated, Kingdom is a drama with MMA as its backdrop that follows the trials and tribulations of Alvey Kulina (Frank Grillo) and his mixed martial arts gym, Navy Street. With his sons Nate and Jay (Nick Jonas and Jonathan Tucker, respectively), he helps improve the lives of various people in his life, and trains MMA fighters in his (struggling) gym. While some of the main characters put aside their own issues to get into the cage, the show explores their interactions with the people around them – like Alvey’s girlfriend Lisa (Kiele Sanchez) having to accept her boyfriend training her ex-fiancee Ryan (Matt Lauria) to fight. It’s not all fun and games, of course, as the requisite drama gets cranked up throughout the series.   Kingdom 1

Photo Courtesy of Instagram

  The struggles are realistic: a retired MMA fighter trying to keep his gym afloat with the help of his sons – one of which is a promising fighter himself – and girlfriend, whose business savvy could very well save the place. When the previously-mentioned ex-fiancee is brought back after some jail time, the ante gets upped considerably. He’s still in love with Lisa, and Alvey wants him to get back into shape to represent the gym. A winning fighter would do wonders for the struggling gym’s reputation, after all, and if the reputation improves … money won’t be  a problem anymore. It’s that sort of “down on their luck pack of unlucky people sees the light at the end of the tunnel” story that keeps us coming back for more. Kingdom is spot-on in its representation of mixed martial arts, by the way. This is something I was worried about when going in, but I wound up being pleasantly surprised. Nothing is dumbed down, MMA is presented as it should be – as a sport, not mindless brutality for the sake of netting ratings. Some famous MMA faces have guest spots on the show, like Cub Swanson of UFC fame, which produces a lot of exciting little moments of recognition. The characters have many layers and complexities, demons that they have to work through, and the acting is fantastic. Nick Jonas presents some surprises as he goes from his bubble gum pop roots to acting. Frank Grillo is absolutely amazing as Alvey and not to be missed. He’s absolutely at home in this role.
There is one guy that you really need to pay attention to and whose performance takes the cake: Jonathan Tucker, who plays Jay, takes the role of the elder Kulina brother and runs with it. Jay is an ex-drug addict who’s finding solace in the cage and working his way through getting better, understanding himself, and doing what he needs to do for himself and his family. His motivations make a hell of a lot of sense and he stands out from his father and brother in his ability to step back, look at what he’s doing, and really change. That’s huge. That makes for an amazing character arc. It’s no wonder the show’s been confirmed for another twenty episodes, and yet, how the heck is nobody outside of the internet talking about it?   Kingdom 2

Photo Courtesy of Navy Street

  With its winning combination of amazing characters, high-end drama, and fantastic acting in a package that just puts Sons of Anarchy to shame, you’d think this show would be all over the place. I should be hearing about it on a regular basis, but I’m not – it doesn’t even seem to pass across Facebook nearly as often as Sons of Anarchy did, and that’s just plain disappointing. Kingdom is under-represented and underestimated. Not painting MMA in a horrible light and instead treating it as a legitimate sport (which it is) just plain helps. Kingdom doesn’t sugar coat just how brutal it can be to try and make a career in mixed martial arts, either, which just helps make the show more interesting. Nobody’s perfect here, and nothing is easy. The star line-up is a pleasant surprise – I never expected Nick Jonas to be a capable actor – and I wouldn’t change any part of it. Everybody pulls their weight, everybody is believable and occasionally heart-wrenching.   logoKingdom is also doing something else that’s fantastic: supporting American business. The supplier of their bright red mats is our company McBryde Mats, and we specialize in wrestling mats and other accessories. If you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact us.   The show is also bringing in several new stars to expand Navy Street Gym’s fighter line-up and crank up the drama to an even higher, far more delicious, level. Everything is coming up roses and we can’t help but be excited.   If you haven’t checked out Kingdom and you’re a fan of mixed martial arts, or you just love character-driven dramas that are realistic and not hokey, you need to start watching this series. Americans can get the show on DirecTV, Australians can find it on FX, and Canadians get the show on Bravo. Season 2 is on now and started on October 14, it’ll run until December 16, so you still have some time! Check out our preview for Kingdom Season 3
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