Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Confession ...

... I am absolutely loving The Tudors, the Showtime import currently airing on BBC2. OK, I know it's high-blown, ridiculous nonsense, riddled with historical inaccuracies and dogged by some egregious acting, most particularly from the otherwise insanely delectable Jonathan Rhys Meyers playing King Henry VIII. But what a hoot!

I can't help loving it, even though in Episode Four, we have just had the nonsensical re-casting of Henry's sister 'Mary Rose' as 'Margaret' (ensuring an amalgamation of both Henry's sisters, including the historically vital Princess Margaret who wed James IV of Scotland) who is dispatched to marry the decrepit and infirm King of Portugal, when in reality, she married the King of France. And then, at the close of the episode, Princess 'Margaret' proceeds to suffocate the ailing king with a pillow! In truth, 'Mary Rose' was reputed to have danced her old king to death, wearing him out with her youth and vitality ... but a murderer?? It's an absurdly crazy notion, but completely in keeping with the high-blown silliness we have come to expect from this TV series.

Of course, I am unabashedly tuning in for the eye candy. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is extremely easy on the eye, and luckily the producers have managed to get him 'out' of his shirt as much as possible. Similarly eye-catching is young Henry Cavill as Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk, who steals Princess 'Margaret's' heart, while escorting her to her political marriage in Portugal. Brandon did indeed fall for Princess 'Mary Rose', and they (eventually) made for a happily handsome married couple, once her first husband had been danced to his grave.

I'm not sure of Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn. She's a little too chocolate-box and less arch and witty than how I envisage the real Anne. But I love Maria Doyle Kennedy as poor, downtrodden Katherine of Aragon. Sam Neill is good value as always as Cardinal Wolsey, and it was good to see James Frain, a terrific actor, entering the fray in Episode Four as Thomas Cromwell.

I'm rather hoping The Tudors can continue for a fair few series to come. There's an awful lot of mileage in that particular dynasty ... the reign of Henry VIII alone is enormously eventful.

Michael Hirst is the creator/writer of this series. He is well-known for penning Shekhar Kapur's exotically sumptuous Elizabeth, with Cate Blanchett resplendent in the title role and Geoffrey Rush excellent as her conniving adviser Walsingham. Elizabeth was recently aired on Channel Four and was definitely worth a (re)-watch, if only for the extremely moving final 20 minutes, when the young queen realises her fate - the political need to forgo her personal desires and humanity in favour of becoming a hallowed virginal icon instead; effectively a PR hologram, to be marketed as the divine, omniscient and quick-witted ruler, almost a self-parody, rather than a real-life flesh and blood woman.

Sure enough, the scripting and the direction in Elizabeth are clearly targeting a fun-seeking postmodern audience, hoping to accrue maximum cultural capital at minimum cost to the old grey matter and/or personal comfort, and history has been reshaped accordingly. But as with The Tudors, Elizabeth is not trying to push itself as a historically accurate tele-document - farcical as such a notion could ever be. The aim is to entertain foremost, and this is definitely achieved.

The success of The Tudors has led me to believe that a cracking TV series could be formed out of yet another formidably exciting period of England's history - The War of the Roses, which encompasses numerous personal rivalries, wars, battles and love affairs stemming from Edward III's reign through to Henry VIII's own father and the final de facto 'victor', Henry VII. Indeed, I'm of a mind to plot out a script myself!

1 comment:

Bee said...

The Tudors is my guilty pleasure of the moment. As a Film and History degree student i find it pulling at the two sides of my mind- as a production it is gorgeous, and i agree that there are some marvelous performances (including Catherine of Aragon), though my history side gets much pleasure at pointing out inaccuracies or complete departures from truth (much to the annoyance of my fellow-viewers!) Taking the title as a clue, i am hoping that they will continue the series beyond Henry's reign, because Mary, Edward and Elizabeth have more than enough depths to plum amongst them to keep the series going for years!