I saw the first two episodes of The Tudors last night - on Showtime's On Demand - and enjoyed them immensely.
The time of Henry VIII - the early-mid 1500s - was a mixture of medieval culture and threads surprisingly like ours. Men of the court still jousted in armor - when they weren't playing indoor tennis. The Tudors has them both, along with great historical characters, superb acting, and scenes so colorful you can almost taste the luscious fruit.
Thomas More of Utopia fame is here. He and Henry talk about Machiavelli's new treatise, The Prince, in a quick scene. Cardinal Wolsey, played perfectly by Sam Neill, plots to become Pope, and discusses the heretic Martin Luther. I am especially fond of these times and people, because I teach them in my "Intro to Communication and Media Studies" classes at Fordham University, and write about them in books like The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of the Information Revolution. The printing press, introduced in Europe just 50 years earlier, will put teeth into Luther's exhortation that people should rely less on the Church and read the Bible for themselves - prior to the press, there were too few Bibles around for this to have worked. The Protestant Reformation is about to happen, and Henry will soon take full advantage.
The sex in The Tudors is great, and that's part of what drives Henry. Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who played the lead in Woody Allen's Matchpoint, gives a commanding performance. Natalie Dormer looks tempting as Anne Boleyn.
Comparisons are irresistible to HBO's Rome, and, indeed, the first scene in The Tudors has Henry's "uncle" murdered in Italy, in what could almost have been the same place as Julius Caesar. Unfortunately, Henry didn't have an uncle - but neither was Atia of the Julii in the HBO series much like the real Atia Balba, and that didn't hurt HBO's Rome one bit.
But there are significant differences in the series. The Tudors has no mostly fictional downstairs, no Vorenus and Pullo, with their powerful counter-story intertwining with real history. The Tudors is all upper crust, all nobility.
But I'm thinking that's more than enough to make a great series, and I'm looking forward to more.
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my reviews of subsequent episodes of The Tudors: Episode 3: History So Real You Can Feel It, Episode 4: The Penalty of Royalty, Episode 5: Madrigal Musical Chairs, Episode 6: Tectonic Chess, Episode 7: Henry's Imperfect Apothecary
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