iPlayered Merlin last night, out of curiosity.
There's a lot to like, some nice performances from the glut of young actors that have been jammed into it. It's a great cast altogether. The music seemed a bit sub-John Williams to me but was effective none the less. The locations and sets were nice but seemed very clean for the dark ages, much like the characters themselves - all young, clean and beautiful, not so much of the Dark Ages-chic.
The relationship between Arthur and Merlin was especially engaging, the two actors well conveyed an instant and amusing rivalry which was a high point of the episode for me. The other highlight was the lovely sequence where Eve Myles made everyone fall asleep with her song before trying to stick it to Arthur.
It's always hard to judge a first episode, there is such a lot to establish in fifty minutes when setting up a returning drama, and this was more successful than many (stand up Bonekickers!); so it's probably best to watch another episode or two before getting medieval on Merlin's arse.
The issue I have on a personal level is this; if you're going to make a series about a kingdom where magic is banned and a powerful young wizard has to hide his powers while finding his destiny entwined with a despised rival why bother forcing Arthurian legends into the story for no good reason? Better surely to call it the Kingdom of Zog and have a clear conscience. If anyone tells you you're ripping off King Arthur just ask them if they've seen Star Wars, or read Lord of the Rings, or... well, you get the idea I'm sure.
Of course, this could all just be because I still hope to see Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles given the full BBC drama department treatment. Guess we can rule that out for another decade. Mind you, it'll give me time to work up a treatment...