Friday, October 22, 2010

The Tudors

I became addicted to The Tudors, the Showtime series based loosely on the bad behavior of Henry VIII toward a bunch of women. Like a lot of Showtime's offerings, there's plenty of nudity and sex (although they seem to use the same body doubles over and over), but it's the pretty sets and the jewelry that attracted me--the earrings particularly. (It's well known among my friends that, since I didn't get my ears pierced until I was nearly 40, I regularly check every earring counter in a 20-mile radius for likely purchases. Well, I used to. In the first five years after I got my ears pierced, I acquired a lifetime supply of earrings. So I don't buy too many--only five or six pairs a year.)

If you're looking for historical accuracy, The Tudors is not your thing. Thomas Tallis, who is mostly associated with Elizabeth I's court, appears early enough to have an affair with William Compton, who died in 1528. In order to avoid the confusion of too many Marys to track, Margaret Tudor marries and then kills the King of Portugal. The long sea voyage home enables her to spend a lot of time in bed with Charles Brandon. But the historical Margaret Tudor married James IV of Scotland, while the historical Mary Tudor married Louis XII of France.

But the worst thing about the series isn't the radiator that appears in one scene, the asphalt driveway, or the coach with springs that wouldn't be invented for 300 years. It's that Jonathan Rhys Meyers just doesn't make a convincing Henry VIII. Instead of a monstrous monarch with a huge ego and a cruel streak to match, we get a petulant school boy who won't do his homework. I keep expecting Mary Doyle Kennedy (of The Commitments), who plays Catherine of Aragon, to tell him to shut up, sit down and eat his vegetables. It's not entirely his fault; Keith Michell's Henry VIII (in the BBC series 35 years ago) set the standard, and it would be hard for anyone to measure up.

Sam Neill does a wonderful Wolsey, and an actor I'd never heard of, James Frain, plays Thomas Cromwell. Frain, who remains fully clothed through nigh on three seasons, has the simpering smarminess that one would expect of a Tudor courtier, with just a touch of evil. I thought that he'd make a wonderful vampire, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that Showtime had tapped him for a new role--yup, a vampire. I obviously missed my calling as a casting director.

And because I am the person I am, I took up reading. I'm half through the fifth book of the CJ Sansom Matthew Shardlake series. And I'm reading Ives on Anne Boleyn and Hutchinson on Cromwell.

If you rent The Tudors, you can skip the last disc of Season 4. It's a letdown.

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