If you are a devotee of time travel...

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Tudors Commences - History So Colorful You Can Taste It

The Tudors
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.

Useful links:

25-minute podcast at Light On Light Through

Anne of the Thousand Days 1969 movie

A Man for All Seasons 1966 movie

The Tudors Michael Hirst's brand new book!

my latest novel: The Plot to Save Socrates

Derriere and Bosom on The Tudors: More of What the FCC Would Deprive Us Of

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

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


Anonymous said...

I too loved the opening episode of The Tudors. As a Brit we had this period of history shoved down our throats from a very early age in school, but the image we were always shown of Henry VIII is of an obese middle-aged man. Jonathan Rhys Meyers brings the young lion to life beautifully. The supporting cast are superb, Sam Neill as the over-ambitious Cardinal and Jeremy Northam as the ill-fated More. The writers are following the populist view of Buckingham's open treasonable utterances although, in reality, I understand they were highly exaggerated. But I wasn't there so I can't say categorically.

I haven't watched episode two as yet, I hope they don't zoom in on Natalie Dormer's hands too much, for Anne Boleyn had six fingers (well, five plus a thumb) on one of them.

I think Showtime are going to give HBO a run for their money in the drama dept. Plus it doesn't clash with the Sopranos either.

Paul Levinson said...

Penny - great to see you here! You always have at least one fascinating, important point of information (and usually more) ... I'd forgotten about Anne Boleyn's six fingers! (Last time I focused on that, it was because my son was doing a report on people with six fingers at school...)

I often wish I had another finger ... or maybe another hand...