The true tragedy of all of this is that it's getting pretty hard to find unique fantasy on television these days. As far as Hollywood seems to be concerned, there was nothing going on anywhere in the world in history than in Europe, because that's where all period pieces seem to take place when they want a location more exotic than America. Fox has already disappointed us once this year when they announced that Alexis Bledel's Us & Them wasn't going to air, but this hurts in a different place than the "lack of Rory Gilmore-led rom-com" sadness did. Hearing that Fox has cancelled Ancient Egyptian fantasy Hieroglyph hit me right in my diversty lovin' soul.
Sure, our antihero is the white male lead we have come to expect from nine out of every ten shows, but I was willing to overlook that just for the chance to explore the Ancient Egyptian empire. According to Fox's official website for Hieroglyph , which is sure to disappear soon, the extended summary of the show was as follows:
When a dangerous scroll, The Book of Thresholds, is stolen from Egypt's most secure vault, master thief AMBROSE (Max Brown, “Beauty and the Beast,” “MI-5”) is plucked from prison to track down the perpetrator. Ambrose must answer to Pharaoh SHAI KANAKHT (Reece Ritchie, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”), a god in the flesh, a young ruler with a cool charm and a violent, frightening temper. The question for Ambrose is not whether he can trust his new boss, but whether he can trust anyone.
Also stalking the halls of the palace is NEFERTARI KANAKHT (Condola Rashad, “Smash,” “Steel Magnolias”), half-sister to the Pharaoh, whose relationship with Shai's closest advisor, MAGISTER BEK (guest star Hal Ozsan, “90210”), masks her own designs for power. As Ambrose unravels the mystery of The Book of Thresholds, he begins to see the extent to which sorcery has seeped into the halls of power in ancient Egypt, and how close it is to causing this great civilization's downfall.
Pharoahs and pyramids! Sorcerors and concubines! Criminal underworlds and palace intrigue! People of color! It sounds like a dream.
And, apparently, it will always be nothing more than a dream. Fox only shot one episode before deciding that things weren't coming together they way they had hoped and canceling the series completely. From numerous reports, the action seems to be something that the people at Fox were waiting to do. It was greenlit by former programming chief Kevin Reilly and cancelled practically as soon as he was out the door — because, you know, the show would have been wildly expensive to shoot.
I can't help but think it would have been worth the risk. Hieroglyph could have been Fox's answer to Game of Thrones — and, indeed, it does feel a little Game of Thrones-esque with its corrupt Pharaoh and conspicuous nudity — but even more importantly it could have been Fox's contribution to the ongoing diversity campaign. Yes, it featured a white male lead, but Condola Rashad is a member of the main cast and a woman of color, which already makes the Hieroglyph cast more diverse than the Game of Thrones cast.
Ancient Egypt is a setting that isn't really being explored right now, especially on television, and Hieroglyph had the potential to be truly groundbreaking if it treated its themes with delicacy and did its research with respect to the culture. Now, just like Us & Them, it's just another a show that we'll never get to see.