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‘Emerald City’ not quite the yellow brick road of Oz

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Joely Richardson (Glinda the Witch of the North), Vincent D’Onofrio (The Wizard), Adria Arjona (Dorothy Gale) and Oliver Jackson-Cohen (Lucas) co-star in the fantasy drama, Emerald City. Picture: Supplied
Okay, I’m a huge fan of the fantasy genre. I have watched everything from Merlin, Legend of the Seeker, Atlantis, Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time and countless more. 
The genre continues to gain momentum on the small screen, with the arrival of Emerald City.
Based on L Frank Baum’s Land of Oz novel, this series comes to magnificent life á la Once Upon A Time with fresh-faced Puerto Rican actress Adria Arjona at the helm as Dorothy Gale. 
The story starts with Dorothy Gale, a 20-year-old nurse, swept up by a tornado while en-route to confront her biological mother about “abandoning” her. 
Befuddled by her strange new environment – the Land of Oz – she, and her newly inherited dog try to make their way back home, unaware of the adventure that awaits her. 
After watching the first episode, I can’t say I was completely spellbound by the execution. 
At best, this world inhabited by witches and wizards and villains is moderately engaging. 
And Arjona, who appeared in Person of Interest and True Detective, doesn’t really have that gravitas to leave you completely enamoured. Yes, her beauty is distracting but not in a Roselyn Sánchez (Devious Maids) way. 
The set, while somewhat imaginative, doesn’t completely sell the world.
When drawing inspiration from a well-known novel, there are a few cardinal things to be mindful of. 
The characters need to have enough juice to get the audience to invest in their journey. There also needs to be plenty of twists to sustain curiosity. 
Failure to comply with those aspects has a domino effect on the overall success of show and, at that point, it doesn’t matter if you cast veterans like Vincent D’Onofrio as The Wizard and Joely Richardson as Glinda, the Witch of the North.
In an interview with Collider.com, director Tarsem Singh said: “He was it. There is nobody that can do a range the way that D’Onofrio does. 
“There is nobody that can do opera and pathetic, at the same time. He can be grandiose but, at the same time, absolutely pathetic. 
“The Wizard is a con man, and there’s nobody who can play that like Vincent. We hadn’t worked together in 16 years. 
“We’d only talked to each other occasionally, through the internet on email. We just thought that we needed to work together and when this came along, it was the perfect thing. 
“I think there was some hesitation earlier, but for me, he was the right person. We almost lost him for scheduling. 
“That was the only scary thing that happened to me, on this film. Once his schedule was set, then only I could screw it up.”
Interestingly, this series marks Singh’s television debut. 
Having given us the movie Mirror Mirror, with Julia Roberts, fairy tales and the retelling of classic tales such as this is within his realm of expertise. 
When the writers penned the script, the objective was to derail from the original by making it dark and edgy. They delivered on certain aspects and there’s plenty of sex, violence and danger to sustain interest in the 10-episodes. 
But out-of-the-box storytelling – or retelling – doesn’t always translate into a successful TV series. 
And while critics are divided over Emerald City, Singh can take solace in the fact that he finally made that leap onto the small screen. 
It’s a moderately entertaining show... so not a complete write-off. Talk about a bumpy road!

Emerald City airs on Vuzu Amp, DStv channel 103, on Tuesdays at 9.30pm. 

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