Monday, August 20, 2012

The Borgias, Season 1

I never really thought I would long for the days of Showtime's The Tudors, but The Borgias makes me almost whistful for Tudor England and Jonathan Rys Meyers. It's clear that Showtime tried to duplicate the success of The Tudors with The Borgias, and while the series isn't bad (because it isn't), it's just not as interesting as it's precursor.

In case you aren't in the know, the Borgias were a Spanish family who rose to power among the Italian and Papal states around the turn of the sixteenth century. The patriarch, Rodgrigo Borgia, became Pope Alexander VI and was known for corruption, lechery (my favorite), simony, and a host of other sins committed to retain his grip on power. This of course means that we get lots of sex, murder, and all other manner of fun that cable provides.

There's a lot of political maneuvering here, but since I'm not up on my Italian history some of it went over my head. Though I will say that the show did a good job of explaining the political situation at the time and why the Pope was forced to wheel and deal with various Italian kings (Naples, Florence, Milan, etc.).

I have no idea how accurate the history is in this show, but at least according to Wikipedia (always reliable), the Borgias were known to commit murder in order to stay in power. I guess it is supposed to be shocking the amount of sex that the cardinals and Pope engage in, though at this point I'm not sure anything about the Catholic church could surprise me. And it's historical fact that many Popes had children and openly kept mistresses, including Pope Alexander VI.

What's a little incest among the bastard children of the Pope?

The history may not be as familiar (or interesting) as The Tudors, but I think that's due to my bias for all things Anglo. The acting can be hit or miss, though the actors seemed to settle more into their roles as the series progressed (again like The Tudors), and of course, Jeremy Irons is always great. That voice! *fans self*. Oh, and the costumes are stunning. So there's that.

If you're a costume drama fan who likes your political intrigue with a side of murder and sex, then The Borgias is right up your alley. Give it a couple episodes and I bet you'll find yourself enjoying it more than you expected. It's no Tudors...but hey, they can't all be Henry VIII.

The Borgias is available on disc from Netflix (but not on instant watch) and Showtime's On Demand.

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