Saturday, July 31, 2010

Goodbye Tudors

The Tudors - one of the brightest stars in the new golden age of television - concluded on Showtime this June.   Along with Rome, The Tudors showed how deeply and satisfyingly television could show ancient and early modern history.  The Borgias will pick up this fine gauntlet on Showtime in 2011.

The final season of The Tudors was excellent, if not as commanding as the early seasons.  This is the fault of no one other than Henry VIII, whose real life as an older man was not as riveting as when he was younger.  There were fewer trysts, affairs, and conflicts with enemies in England and abroad.  No contentious titans in the court the likes of Wolsey, Thomas More, and Thomas Cromwell.  But the final season of The Tudors had some fire nonetheless, with excellent segments in France, where Henry's engineer takes a crucial step into the modern age by using the best engineering techniques of the time to build a tunnel into the city under siege by Henry's army.

There were memorable farewells, not just by Henry, but by Charles Brandon (Henry Cavill), the only close friend of Henry's to play a central role in all the seasons of the series, and maintain his admirable independence of mind and spirit.   The three women in Henry's last days - daughters Mary and Elizabeth, and last (6th) wife Catherine Parr - were also effectively presented and acted.   And I've always liked Chapuis - even though disagreeing with much of his politics - and thought his final leave taking was especially good.  Kudos to Anthony Brophy, in his own quiet way as effective as Sam Neill (Wolsey), Jeremy Northam‎ (More), and James Frain (Thomas Cromwell).

The women throughout the series - Henry's wives and bed mates, and those other men in the court - were beautifully rendered, almost literally like a Holbein painting come to life in several cases. 
Natalie Dormer was up to the complex, tempestuous part of Anne Boleyn, and I thought Joely Richardson as Catherine Parr was especially powerful.

And Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII was a tour-de-force.

And then there's the history.   Shows that show us the past - from Rome to Mad Men - are ever vulnerable to critiques by historians, professional and amateur.   This is as it should be, and The Tudors was no exception.   But I can say that in the history I know the most about it - the history of media, and, in the case of The Tudors, the advent of the printing press as a powerful social and propagandistic force, The Tudors was spot on.   The scene with Thomas Cromwell showing the printing press to Henry, and explaining to Henry what it could do, is entirely consistent - whether it actually occurred or not - with what I've studied and written about in The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of the Information Revolution.

The Tudors is screenwriter Michael Hirst's creation - he was head writer and executive producer.   What he has left us is a history as fine and vivid any ever seen in a movie or read in a book.

See also  The Tudors Final Ten Episodes

and from Season 3:  The Tudors, Season 3: Hard History and Sweet Flesh  ... Thomas Cromwell on The Tudors: "Surely All Art Is a Lie"

from Season 2: Tooling Up for The Tudors and The Tudors: Transformations and Assassins ... John Adams Concludes, The Tudors Continues, The First Amendment Abides ... The Tudors and the Printing Press ... The Tudors Concludes and America Begins

from Season 1: Episodes 1 and 2: History So Colorful You Can Taste It, 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, Episode 8: The Limits of Power, Episode 9: And Wolsey Falls in a Soaring Performance ... The Tudors Concludes First Season: A Suicide, A Burning, A Roll in the Forest

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

The Plot to Save Socrates

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

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